Physical Therapy is a health profession dedicated to improving movement and flexibility in patients. Physical therapists serve a wide range of people, from young children to aging seniors and everyone in between. Developmental disabilities, recovery from illness, injury, or surgery, and even elite athletic performance can all benefit from physical therapy treatment.
There are a variety of forms of physical therapy and specialties offered by physical therapists, but the focus is always on evaluating, diagnosing, and managing movement and health through manual treatments, functional training, and exercise.
The effects of physical therapy can be life changing — from relief of chronic pain to restored physical capabilities.
Long Lasting Benefits of Physical Therapy
Physical therapists work with patients through all phases of healing, from diagnosis through recovery. Physical therapy can even be invaluable for injury prevention. But at whatever stage of illness a patient begins physical therapy treatment, the benefits can be felt far into the future.
Some of these include:
Pain management with reduced need for opioids — Pain management is what motivates many people to seek treatment in the first place. A physical therapist’s approach to pain involves both active and passive therapies that seek to effectively address the problem without reliance on drugs or surgery. As such, PT is often a best first step in addressing chronic pain issues. Successful treatment often includes stretching and range of motion exercises, strengthening exercises, and even low-impact aerobic conditioning.
Increased strength and endurance — Many illnesses and injuries involve muscle weakness as either a cause or a result. Physical therapists work with patients to restore strength and endurance through exercises specifically targeted toward the patient’s needs, thereby optimizing the time and effectiveness of recovery. Strength and endurance exercises prescribed by a PT are also a key component of injury prevention and lifelong health and fitness.
Avoiding surgery — Physical therapists perform their work without surgical intervention, and in many cases physical therapy is successful at treating problems before surgery is necessary, so that surgery can be avoided or delayed. And when surgery is needed, physical therapy before and after the procedure can increase the chances of success and speed recovery time. Common problems that physical therapy can address without surgery include back pain and shoulder injuries.
Improved mobility and movement — Along with pain relief, improving mobility and movement is a core function of physical therapy. Diagnosis of underlying problems, manual therapies, and exercise are key components of treatment. Whether someone is having trouble walking, reaching overhead, or even getting out of bed, working with a physical therapist can be key to recovery and restoration of long term functionality.
Recovery from injury or trauma — Combining pain management with improved mobility and movement, physical therapy is ideal for guiding a patient through recovery from injury, both to overcome the injury itself and to avoid any long-lasting side effects that may arise from compensations or avoiding use of the injured area.
Recovery from stroke or paralysis — Patients often lose some level of movement and functional abilities following a stroke. With physical therapy, weakened parts of the body can be strengthened again while gait and equilibrium are restored. Even formerly simple tasks such as bathing, dressing, or using the toilet can be difficult, but a qualified physical therapist can work with patients to help regain these capabilities.
Improved balance and fall prevention — Injury, aging, and vestibular problems often result in balance issues, which create a risk of falls and further injury. Physical therapy provides a safe space for balance training exercises along with any other exercises that might help a particular patient’s condition. Additionally, a physical therapist can provide assistive devices and training in methods of managing and reducing fall risk in real life situations.
Management of age-related medical problems — There’s an entire specialty of physical therapy dedicated to older patients and age-related issues, such as arthritis, osteoporosis, and joint replacement. As we age, a relationship with a physical therapist is more important than ever in helping us anticipate approaching problems and deal with them while they are most manageable.