What it is, who it’s for and why you should try physical therapy
If you have recently suffered an injury and are on the mend, your medical professional will likely refer you to a physical therapist for continued rehabilitation. Why do you need a physical therapist? What is a physical therapist?
This type of treatment is all about proper movement and body mechanics. A physical therapist works with you to strengthen muscles, rehabilitate injuries, and prevent further injuries.
How does physical therapy aid in rehab?
When you’re recovering from an accident or injury, physical therapy can provide a host of compelling benefits, including:
- Relieving pain from injuries
- Helping injuries improve and heal faster
- Strengthening muscles and tissues to prevent additional injuries
- Improving movement and mobility
- Improved balance
- Treat chronic conditions that have been aggravated by an accident
- Controlling your bowels or bladder
- Adapting to an assistive device (e.g., a walker or cane)
- Learning to use a prosthetic
How does physical therapy actually work?
When do you see a physical therapist?
Despite the fact that a PT (physical therapist) has a master’s degree and a state license after passing exams, this person is not who you’d turn to for acute injuries. Even though many are located in hospitals, they are not the first plan of attack on your injuries. You see them after the worst has passed, but you still require help in healing. When you’re facing rehabilitation, not fighting for your life.
What happens during rehab with physical therapy?
The first thing a PT will do is watch you move, walk, grasp, lift, rotate and more – they will test your range of motion, how far you can bend and see what is limited.
Each session will likely have a short assessment of your range of motion to see improvements.
Additionally, they will ask where the pain is, how long you have had it and what you have tried already. Then, they might use a hands-on method to assist you in proper body movements or prescribe light exercises. Many of these exercises are self-guided and done at home so there is improvement in between sessions.
Physical therapy can be tailored to conditions, like sports performance enhancement programs or a program specifically focused on gait analysis. This treatment can even be performed on the youngest or oldest of patients; a premature baby in the NICU of a hospital will need to learn not to raise their shoulders up to their ears, for instance.
A PT also has heating and cooling pads at their disposal, as well as TENS devices that are stronger than those found over the counter. Electrical stimulation is a popular rehab treatment with physical therapists, and it helps to calm overstimulated nerves that cause pain.
Many also utilize water pools, ultrasound, massage and the RICE system: rest, ice, compression and elevation. Everything they do is to restore function, reduce pain and improve living conditions.
How do I find a physical therapist?
Your doctor likely has several recommendations for you in terms of who you should see. There is also the “Find a PT” function on the American Physical Therapy Association’s website, which allows you to search within a certain radius of a zip code or city. No matter who you choose, make sure he or she has experience working with your type of injury and has a track record of success.