Physical Therapy - VA Palo Alto Health Care System
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VA Palo Alto Health Care System


Physical Therapy

Physical therapist examines a patient's backPhysical therapists are health care professionals who maintain, restore, and improve movement, activity, and health, enabling an individual to have optimal functioning and quality of life, while ensuring patient safety and applying evidence to provide efficient and effective care.

Physical therapists evaluate, diagnose, and manage individuals of all ages who have impairments, activity limitations, and participation restrictions. In addition, physical therapists are involved in promoting health, wellness, and fitness through risk factor identification and the implementation of services to reduce risk, slow the progression of or prevent functional decline and disability, and enhance participation in chosen life situations.

The VAPAHCS Physical Therapy Section services many diverse programs including inpatient care, outpatient/ambulatory care, Spinal Cord Injury/Disorders, Polytrauma System of Care, Regional Amputation Center, Assistive Technology Lab Mental Health Units, Western Blind Rehab Center, Community Living Centers (CLC), and Community Based Outpatient Clinics (CBOC). The VAPAHCS Physical Therapy Section is located not only on the main campus at Palo Alto, but also Menlo Park, San Jose, Livermore, Stockton, Modesto, and Monterey.

Clinical Education Program

The VAPAHCS Physical Therapy Department is known for their strong commitment towards education, accepting approximately 25 students/interns annually for their clinical rotations. We offer education opportunities on Acute Care, Sub-acute Care, Outpatient and acute rehab including the Polytrauma Rehabilitation Center and Spinal Cord Injury/Disability Service.

Geriatric Residency Program

Two interns examine a skeletonVAPAHCS proudly offers a 1-year post professional Physical Therapy Residency in Geriatrics. The program recently has earned accreditation from the American Physical Therapy Association. It is currently the only accredited PT residency in geriatrics in the Western US sponsored by the VA and one of two Geriatric PT residencies in the state of California. Residents receive mentoring in a wide variety of clinical settings from a faculty of experienced clinicians that include five physical therapists with board-certified clinical specialization in geriatrics. Residents who successfully complete the program are eligible to sit for the Geriatric Clinical Specialist Exam.

  • Application to the program is done through RF-PTCAS.
  • Program Outcomes:
    1/1 = 100% of graduates passed board specialty exam;
    2/2 = 100% of residents have successfully graduated program

Trigger Point Dry Needling

Trigger point dry needling (TDN) is the use of a fine filament needle directed into irritable muscles to facilitate relaxation and pain reduction. Although TDN is an emerging modality recently popularized as a treatment for professional sports athletes, it has been used frequently in the military to reduce acute pain without the need for medication. In an overseas military unit, the rapid and medication-free pain relief offered by TDN is a significant benefit compared to other modalities. In the VA, TDN is effective at managing both acute and chronic pain as well as improving function for our Veterans. Since TDN is low-risk and requires no medication, it is an effective alternative to the pervasive use of opiates in healthcare.

VA Palo Alto Health Care System spearheaded the use of TDN by Physical Therapists, being the first VA healthcare system to provide such services in California. With over 30 Physical Therapists currently trained to provide TDN at clinics within the VAPAHCS system, VAPAHCS is one of the largest providers of TDN treatment in the country. VAPAHCS is now one of only three VA healthcare systems in California that provides TDN treatments to Veterans.

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