Wondering if physical therapy is right for you? Has your primary care doctor suggested you see a PT, but you’re not convinced it will cure what ails you? Well pull up a physioball and have a seat, because you’re about to learn a few things. Physical therapy benefits patients of all ages, from children to the elderly, from those with serious illness or injury to elite athletes looking to improve their performance.
Physical therapists are licensed doctors. They can specialize in a number of areas: cardiovascular/pulmonary; electrophysiology; neurology; oncology; geriatrics; orthopedics; pediatrics; women’s health; wound management; or sports. Whatever their field of specialty, though, physical therapists rely on movement, prescribed exercise, and education to provide non-invasive treatment to their patients. The goal is to restore function, reduce or manage pain, and prevent disability.
Physical Therapy Benefits
Physical therapists examine and evaluate patients with a focus on movement, flexibility, and performance of muscles and joints. They diagnose problems, set goals, plan care, and prescribe treatment that can include both guided and self-managed exercises (for example, physical therapy stretches) that will improve conditions for their patients.
Physical therapy benefits are wide-raging and can include all of the following and more:
Smoother Recovery from Illness or Injury — Most people first visit a physical therapist to deal with a specific problem. Maybe they’re having trouble reaching overhead or they’re concerned with joint health or they’ve been in an accident. Maybe they’re recovering from a stroke. Maybe they’re just getting older and having a harder time getting around. A physical therapist can design a program of treatment for all of these conditions, with an emphasis on supplementing the body’s own natural healing processes with exercises unique to each patient’s condition. With the guidance of a physical therapist, recovery and management of illness and injury is smoother, quicker, more effective, and with fewer side effects.
Injury Prevention — A strong, flexible body is less prone to injury. Likewise, someone who moves smartly is less likely to hurt themselves, either through accident or through long-term overuse or misuse of joints and muscles. Physical therapists are a great source of information when it comes to injury prevention, both through their recommendation of exercises that you should be performing and their guidance against things you should avoid.
Pain Management without Opioids — Overuse of opioids has been a big problem in recent years as doctors relied heavily on them for pain management. Unfortunately they are often both ineffective and highly addictive. It’s a shame, because many of the aches and pains they have been used for can be relieved through simple physical therapy. Basic strengthening and stretching exercises prescribed by a physical therapist can do wonders for pain relief, and can be repeated as often as needed without the dangers associated with opioid medications.
Avoid Surgery — Any surgery is dangerous. Surgery is risky and not always beneficial, and should be used only as a last resort when other options have failed. And one of the first options you should try in many cases is physical therapy. Often time and appropriate exercise is all that is needed to alleviate a condition and bring about full recovery.
Improved Mobility and Balance — Either as a side effect of other treatment goals or as an end in itself, physical therapy is great for increasing mobility — both the type of mobility that allows you to get up and go for a walk, and the type of range of motion movements that let you scratch your own back or remove a can from a high shelf. Just as important is improved balance and fall prevention. Physical therapists can screen your risk and provide exercises, treatments, and even assistive devices to keep you upright on your feet.
Ease into Aging — It happens to the best of us. As we get older we slow down. We hurt a bit more. Our bones start to creak. Maybe we develop osteoporosis or arthritis or we replace a joint or two. Physical therapists are available to help us with specific conditions or with the overall process of aging, with exercises and treatments that keep us active and strong well into our later years.
Physical Therapy Can Be the Best Solution
For many different body aches and problems, physical therapy can be a simple, direct solution. What makes physical therapy even more accessible than you may think is that you don't always need to actually go to a physical therapist to get physical therapy. If you're looking to strengthen your body or perform other simple exercises, you can follow a self-managed program as long as you have the physical therapy tools you need.
So think about starting physical therapy, either with a licensed therapist or on your own, and reach out if you have any questions.