If your doctor has told you to go to physical therapy after an injury or surgery, you may be wondering what the point of it is. On a basic level, it will help you recover from whatever injury you currently have, but it goes further than that. Here are the details of what exactly physical therapy is, what it's good for, and answers to some other frequently asked questions.
What is Physical Therapy?
Physical therapy is a type of medical treatment that helps those with medical conditions, injuries, or illnesses that make normal forms of movement difficult. Since you could be recommended physical therapy for a multitude of different reasons, there are many different treatment tracks for physical therapy. The main goal of physical therapy is to relieve or decrease pain, improve your movement ability, or prevent and recover from injuries, and those goals are achieved by different means depending on what reason you attend physical therapy.
What Happens at a Physical Therapy Appointment?
The specifics of your appointment will change depending on the preferences of your physical therapist, the specific treatment plan you're on, and your reason for attending physical therapy. However, there are some usual experiences across the board for your physical therapy experience.
At your first appointment, you should expect to speak with your physical therapist about the reason you're attending and what your goals are. Your answers to these questions will help determine exactly what your treatment plan will be, as will the physical assessment that your physical therapist will do. The things that they check and what they test will be dependent on what you're being treated for, but may include things like your balance, your reflexes, or your strength in certain positions.
Some physical therapists will have more equipment at their offices, like weight machines or even pools. Pools can be very effective for gentle strength training since the water takes the pressure off of your joints. Make sure that if they have a pool, they're doing the proper maintenance, like keeping the pH between 7.4 and 7.6 so the chlorine is most effective.
When is Physical Therapy Needed?
Physical therapy can be recommended for a multitude of reasons, including:
- Treatment After an Injury. Whether you are in a car accident or a sports-related accident, physical therapy can be used to help restore you so you can be back on your feet and moving once again.
- Injury Prevention. If you are an injury-prone person, especially an injury-prone athlete, physical therapy can help prevent injuries. For example, if you are prone to getting "jumper's knee," or patellar tendonitis, you will work with your physical therapist to strengthen the surrounding muscles so that there is less pressure on the affected knee.
- Surgery Prevention. If you have an injury that may need surgery to fix it, you can possibly avoid it with physical therapy. In fact, a recent study showed that physical therapy cut costs by almost 72% for patients because it gives them the chance to recover from most injuries without specialized surgery.
- Surgery Recovery. If you did need surgery and it impacted your mobility or strength at all, physical therapy is oftentimes used to restore full range of motion and strength during recovery.
- Improve Balance. If you have balance issues, especially if you're aging, physical therapy can be used to restore your balance or otherwise help you.
- Improve Mobility. If you have lost part of the mobility in any part of your body, physical therapy can help restore your mobility. For example, if your shoulder was injured and you lost a lot of range of motion, physical therapy can help you restore that full range of motion that you lost.
- Many More Reasons. There are many more reasons why a doctor may recommend that their patient seeks out the care of a physical therapist, so make sure that you listen to your doctor's recommendation and fully understand their reasoning.
Will I Need to Go to Physical Therapy Forever?
The short answer to this question is probably not. It depends heavily on what your reason is for going to physical therapy and what you want to achieve with your time. If your physical therapist recommends that you no longer come into their office for treatment, they will probably give you some at-home options to help you continue to stay injury-free and mobile. This makes sense since studies have shown that just ten minutes of physical activity a day can help improve mobility as well as your lifespan.
What Should I Look For in a Physical Therapist?
When you're looking for a physical therapist, the most important thing to search for is someone that you will be comfortable speaking and working with. Physical therapy can sometimes involve your physical therapist manually correcting positioning or stretching you out, and if you're not fully comfortable with your physical therapist, this may not be a good experience.
In addition, you should make sure that your physical therapist has all of the proper certifications to be operating wherever you live. These certifications should be readily available to view either online or in their offices.
If you're recommended physical therapy by your doctor, it's a good idea to have them recommend some physical therapists for you to contact as well. You may need to reach out to multiple physical therapists because of availability or other issues, so make sure that you get a few options from your doctor if you want one specifically recommended by them.
If physical therapy is recommended to you, it's a good idea to start your sessions as soon as possible. Whether you're going for prevention, recovery, or anything in between, physical therapy can be extremely helpful to your health.
Have you ever needed physical therapy? What was your experience? Let us know in the comments!