We’ve all felt it. Lingering pain from old sports injuries, the beginnings of carpal tunnel, or even acute pain in your back, neck, or shoulders. You may be telling yourself these aches and pains are just part of getting older. Perhaps you’ve even resigned yourself to surgery or pain pills for pain management. Fortunately, many of the aches and pains you experience can be improved through physical therapy. With the help of a physical therapist, you can improve your mobility, reduce pain, and even avoid surgery. Physical therapists are specifically trained to treat muscle and joint problems. They treat patients of all ages, from newborns on up. Whatever your pain or mobility concern, physical therapy is a good place to start healing.
When Do You Need Physical Therapy?
Deciding when to seek physical therapy doesn’t have to be complicated. If you’re experiencing pain that isn’t improving, it’s probably time to make an appointment with your physical therapist. Additionally, if you start having difficulty accomplishing daily tasks, you’ll want to get started with a physical therapy plan. A new diagnosis of a chronic disease like diabetes is also a good time to meet with a physical therapist. Your physical therapist can help you assess your needs and avoid injuries or pain that may come up as you make lifestyle changes to accommodate your diagnosis. People who are looking for pain management may also benefit from physical therapy. A physical therapist can help you control pain and ease you off pain medications as appropriate.
Benefits of Physical Therapy
Understanding how physical therapy can help you is key to getting the treatment you need. These benefits include:
- Individualized participation in your recovery. One of the biggest benefits of physical therapy is that you get to be an active participant in your healing process. Your physical therapist will talk to you about your goals, challenges, and needs. From there you’ll work together in your treatment plan.
- Improve your movement. As movement experts, physical therapists can help you maximize your movement so you can work and play the way you need.
- Avoid surgery and pain medications. Many surgeries can be avoided with the proper physical therapy treatment plan. Similarly, physical therapy is generally a safer alternative to pain medications like opioids.
Myths About Physical Therapy
Common misconceptions about physical therapy keep away patients who could otherwise benefit from it. If you’ve heard any of the following, you may not have the truth about physical therapy.
- Physical therapy hurts! The truth: Your physical therapist is highly sensitive to making sure your pain levels are manageable while you work through your treatment plan.
- I need a doctor’s referral. The truth: In most cases, you can call and make an appointment with no doctor’s referral.
- My insurance won’t cover it. The truth: Some form of physical therapy is covered by most insurance companies. Ask the billing department of your physical therapist’s office to help you determine what your insurance will cover.
- Physical therapy is only for accidents and injuries. The truth: A good physical therapist can help prevent small aches and pains from becoming big problems. Physical therapists can also help you after surgery, during pregnancy, and after acute illness (such as a heart attack) or a diagnosis with a chronic illness.
- I (or my doctor) can do this without a physical therapist. The truth: While your participation is essential, a physical therapist is trained extensively in the latest methods of healing and has the clinical experience needed to give you the best care available. Physical therapy must be performed by a licensed physical therapist.
What to Expect: Physical Therapy
Your first appointment with your physical therapist will be an evaluation. Your physical therapist will work with you determine your needs, and help you come up with a treatment plan. On average, you can expect about six visits with your physical therapist (which will differ depending on the extent of your needs or injury). Your physical therapist will also ask you to work on exercises at home between sessions. When you come, wear clothing you’d wear during exercise. You’ll need to have clothing that allows you a range of motion and access to your injury.