What Is Physical Therapy? Everything You Need to Know

Are you looking for drug-free relief from pain? 41% of patients have found that kind of relief in physical therapy.

If you are experiencing pain after an accident, a brain injury, or an illness, you may be on the hunt to ease that pain. Your doctor may offer you medication, which may help, but what if you want to avoid medication? Physical therapy may be the way to go.

What is physical therapy? Keep reading for all the details on what physical therapy entails and how to choose if it’s the right path for you.

What Is Physical Therapy?

Physical therapy treats individuals who have limited functional mobility in some part of their body. Recovery is achieved through evaluation, assessment, and treatment. The goal is maximal function.

Physical therapists are medical professionals who have gone through years of training and are licensed to treat patients. A physical therapist will not just do exercises with you. They can also help with pain management and preventative care.

Types of physical therapy include:

  • acute care
  • respiratory and pulmonary rehab
  • post-operative care
  • orthopedic rehab
  • neurological rehab
  • wound therapy

Who Needs Physical Therapy?

If you’ve experienced any of the following, you might benefit from physical therapy:

  • spinal cord injury
  • traumatic brain injury
  • stroke
  • knee or hip replacement
  • amputation/limb loss
  • broken/fractured bones
  • carpal tunnel syndrome
  • arthritis
  • sports injury
  • vertigo

Your doctor may recommend physical therapy after treating you for your injury or condition. Sometimes, you may want to seek out physical therapy on your own. Be sure to check with your insurance company for their requirements regarding referrals.

Physical therapy is offered in a variety of settings. To name just a few:

  • outpatient clinic
  • hospital
  • nursing home
  • your own home
  • cardiac rehab centers
  • schools

The location of your therapy is likely to depend on your needs. If you’re still in the hospital, you may work with a physical therapist before you’re discharged. A physical therapist may come to your home to work with you on accomplishing your daily tasks, or a local outpatient clinic might best serve you.

The First Steps

Going to physical therapy can be intimidating if you’ve never done it before, so it can help to know exactly what to expect.

When you go for your first appointment, the physical therapist will complete a full assessment and examination. Some initial questions might be about where your pain is and at what level that pain exists. They will also ask about the history of your health.

During an examination, a physical therapist may check:

  • strength/muscle function
  • flexibility/range of motion
  • posture
  • coordination/balance
  • joint/overall mobility
  • neurological function
  • cardiac/pulmonary function
  • skin integrity

Once an evaluation has concluded, they will create a plan. Your physical therapist will work with you to establish goals for your recovery. Those goals may include the reduction of pain, the return of mobility, and/or regaining independent daily function.

Education is also part of a physical therapist’s job. They may use diagrams, charts, and models to explain their diagnosis of your condition and their prognosis for your recovery.

Physical Therapy Sessions

With your treatment plan in place, you and your physical therapist can get to work. Depending on your therapy’s scope, you may go for anywhere from one day a week to several days a week. Sessions can range from 30 to 60 minutes.

There are many ways a physical therapist might treat you. Most people associate physical exercise with physical therapy, and that may well be the bulk of what you do at your sessions. But there are other techniques your physical therapist might employ. Some examples are:

  • heat
  • ice
  • electrical stimulation
  • water
  • laser therapy
  • ultrasound

These techniques will help you improve flexibility, gain strength, increase mobility, and manage pain. And if you say an exercise is easy, your physical therapist will probably make it harder to increase its effectiveness.

It’s possible your physical therapist may do some massage therapy to relieve your pain and improve your blood flow as well. Note that this type of massage may not be the same as you would get from a masseuse at a spa.

Your physical therapist may assign you homework by showing exercises you can do at home to help maintain the work you’re doing during your sessions.

The length of physical therapy varies from person to person and depends upon:

  • the extent of your injury
  • your progress, particularly in pain relief
  • if your mobility and flexibility are improving
  • whether your goals are being met

When your pain is eliminated and your flexibility and strength have improved, you may be nearing the end of your need for physical therapy. Your physical therapist may suggest continued exercise at home to avoid a relapse.

Finding a Therapist

Your goal is to return to your daily activities without pain or mobility issues. In order to do this, it’s important for you to find the best physical therapist for the job.

The first thing you can do is talk to your doctor. They may recommend a local physical therapist who works well with your particular injury or condition.

Do your research on the internet to find local physical therapists. Once you’ve compiled a list of potential professionals, make appointments to meet with them. You’ll quickly be able to see whether you can establish a working rapport with a particular therapist.

Your Recovery

Now that you know all about physical therapy, you can decide if it’s the right move for you.

Pain may be your constant companion. Daily tasks may seem impossible to complete. You may even have difficulty at work. If this is the case, it might be time to speak to your doctor and consider looking for a physical therapist.

If you’re in Pennsylvania and you want to discuss your options for physical therapy, contact us at the Injury Care Center today. Our professionals are ready to help ease your pain and get you back to the business of living pain free.