Physical therapy is the area of health care that specializes in disorders of the musculoskeletal system. Specifically, physical therapy evaluates the functional interdependence of each part of the musculoskeletal system and utilizes a variety of treatment methods to restore full movement and function to any areas with a deficiency. The methods include exercise, massage, heat and cold, and electricity. For example, exercise works the muscle group, ice reduces the swelling of the muscles, and heat aids in flexibility. Recently, Yoga and Pilates have been incorporated into therapy plans. Without a doubt, physical therapy is an innovative field that is focused on healing the patient and restoring them to optimum health.
The treatment plan is managed by physical therapists, who are health professionals with either a bachelors, masters or doctorate degree. The physical therapy is prescribed by the treating physician, when it is deemed appropriate. The doctor and physical therapist work together to develop a therapy strategy that will enable the patient to fully recover. Physical therapy is prescribed for children and adults alike. The patient and physical therapist work together to restore full movement and functionality to the affected areas.
The following are commonly asked questions about physical therapy. Click the questions below for the answers.
What Is A Physical Therapist?
Physical therapists are licensed health care professionals who have earned a master’s or doctorate degree in physical therapy. Physical therapists provide their services in hospitals, out patient facilities, schools, rehabilitation clinics, and home care centers. Physical therapists work to rehabilitate people who have sustained an injury, birth defect, disease or other pathological process that has interfered with the proper functioning and alignment of the musculoskeletal system. The physical therapist works directly with the patient, through a series of exercise and other physical therapy methods to rehabilitate the patient. Physical therapists focus on pain relief, healing and restoring function and movement to the afflicted area. Just as doctors do, physical therapists devote their entire professional career to rehabilitating their patients and preventing injuries. Typically, physical therapists are well versed in other associated areas such as diet and wellness.
How Long Does Physical Therapy Take?
Physical therapy sessions are customized to each patient, therefore it is difficult to estimate the length of time that it will take to reach your goals until you meet with the physical therapist to discuss your condition. The length of time the therapy will take also depends on the condition that the therapy is healing. As physical therapy is prescribed for a wide range of conditions and ailments, the length of time can range from as short as a few months, to a year.
Please browse our site for a complete description of aliments and conditions that physical therapy treats. These sections will provide specific information and assist the patient in understanding the benefits of physical therapy.
Choosing A Physical Therapist
Your doctor is the best person to refer you to a physical therapist. As doctor’s offices work so closely with physical therapists, they are best suited to refer you to a physical therapist that specializes in your specific condition. While all physical therapists are licensed and qualified to perform a wide range of therapy services, there are differences in the treatment you will experience. For example, is physical therapist who specializes in pediatrics, will be the best choice for a child in need of therapy.
Since your doctor has a well developed relationship with you, it makes sense to turn to him for a referral. Your doctor understands your medical condition and can lay out the best treatment plan for you. Make an appointment with him today.
Do I Need Physical Therapy?
Most people are uncertain if physical therapy can help with their condition or injury. They consider surgery and pain medications as an alternative treatment to physical therapy, but this is not correct. Physical therapy can be a stand-alone treatment or an accompaniment to surgery and other forms of treatment.
If you ask a physical therapist who would benefit from physical therapy, most would agree that a fair majority of the population could benefit from some form of physical therapy. While the patient may not have a condition that is causing intense and life altering pain and reduced functioning, chances are that they do have a condition that would benefit from a little physical therapy. Physical therapy focuses on ergonomics, fitness, and wellness. Some of the conditions that benefit from physical therapy include:
- Generalized Neck, Leg and Back Pain
- Orthopedic Conditions
- Reduced Mobility and Balance
- Chronic Fatigue
- Post-surgical Rehabilitation
- Cancer Rehabilitation
- Fitness and Wellness Education
- Weight Management
- Respiratory Problems
- Knee, Ankle and Foot Problems
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Tendonitis
- Stroke, Spinal Cord and Head Injury Rehabilitation
- Muscle Strains and Sprains
- Work-related Injuries
- Sports-related Injuries
If you are not sure if physical therapy is right for you, ask your physician. Physical therapy is covered by most insurance plans as a medical necessary service.
Where Can I Receive Physical Therapy?
Physical therapists are part of the larger medical community and can be found in most medical settings. As a result, you can receive physical therapy in many settings.
- Hospitals - Hospitals are the most common places where physical therapy is administered. As hospitals treat many conditions and diseases, the physical therapy departments within those hospitals specialize in treating those patients. The physical therapy clinics treat patients who are both admitted to the hospital and outpatients. The hospital setting allows patients to receive therapy while they are still admitted. This gives the patient the opportunity to begin recovery and rehabilitation prior to returning home. For example, after hip replacement surgery, the patient will receive a few treatments prior to being discharged. They therapy sessions will prepare the patient to return to a home setting by educating the patient on the recovery process and working to restore a minimal amount of movement prior to discharge. Generally, patients who undergo physical therapy prior to being released from the hospital are better prepared to return home and on average, heal quicker than those who do not receive any therapy prior to discharge.
- Outpatient Clinics - Outpatient clinics are the second most common place to find a physical therapist. There are outpatient clinics that specialize in sports medicine, rehabilitation and other areas. Despite the specialty of the clinic, all physical therapists in out patient clinics as trained and licensed to treat any condition.
- Rehabilitation Hospitals and Centers - Rehabilitation hospitals and centers offer a total approach to occupational, speech and other related therapies. Rehabilitation centers are a one-stop shop for many afflictions. These centers bring together additional resources for patients who are undergoing multiple therapies and treatments. In addition to the convenience of having many resources in one place, the patient benefits by having their extended team on site to work together to develop the most effective treatment plan for the patient.
- Public School System - Public school districts across the U.S. employ a variety of therapists to work with children that have special needs. This includes speech, occupational and physical therapist. Through early intervention programs, students with speech delays, autism, Down’s syndrome, and multiple sclerosis are administered a variety of therapies, on the school sites, at the school district’s expense. This ensures that the child will have the best chance of succeeding, despite their affliction.
- Home Health Agencies - With the rising cost of medical care, major insurance agencies are supporting the use of therapy in a home health care setting. Instead of the patient coming to the physical therapist, the therapist goes to the patient. This approach greatly benefits immobile patients, who are unable to leave the home. This approach also reduces the costs associated with transporting patients and maintaining additional therapy sites.
You can receive therapy in a variety of treatment settings. Once your doctor deems that physical therapy is necessary, you can discuss the appropriate treatment setting for your unique condition.
Types of Physical Therapy
Given the fact that physical therapy treats such a wide range of ailments and conditions, it would seem logical that there are many specialties within the area of physical therapy. The specialties are well known in the medical community, but not necessarily to the public. The most common physical therapies are orthopedic, geriatric, neurological, cardiovascular, pulmonary rehabilitation, and pediatric. The descriptions for each specialty will aid you in determining what specialty is most appropriate for you.
Physical Therapy After Knee Surgery
The knee joint is the largest joint in the body, and connects the femur and tibia with ligaments. The ligaments stabilize the knee and control the motion of the joint itself. The meniscus is the cartilage that lies between the bones. All of these parts need to work properly for the knee to function with total mobility.
Just about everyone knows someone who has had a knee injury. In fact, knee injury is the most common injury in all age groups. The knee is susceptible to damage during athletic, work and everyday activities. Knee injuries are treated with physical therapy and surgery, combined with postoperative physical therapy. Knee surgery is a low risk, highly successful surgery that is usually performed on an outpatient basis.
After any surgery, the patient experiences pain and swelling, that leads to decreased use of the affected area. It is for this reason, that immediately following surgery, patients begin a recovery program with a physical therapist. At first, the therapy is designed to reduce stiffness and increase strength. These exercises are non-weight bearing so that they allow the knee to heal. Over time, the exercises become more intense and challenging.
It is important that the patient complete the full therapy, as prescribed by their doctor. While the patient may feel better, it is important that the therapist be given the opportunity to work all the muscle groups that provide support to the knee.
Back Pain and Physical Therapy
The American Medical Association (AMA) estimates that 5 out of 6 people experience back pain at some time in their life. Given the fact that the back is houses 33 vertebrae, 30 muscles, joints, ligaments, and disks, it is easy to understand why back pain is so common. If any part of the back is injured, pain is the result.
If you have experienced back pain, then you are aware that every movement that we make uses some part of the back. Even raising your arm to scratch your nose involves the back! Daily stretches and a regular exercise routine assists in preventing most back injuries. When we consider how busy our lives have become, this is easier said than done. That, in addition a sedimentary lifestyle, contributes to the high number of back injuries today.
There is a misconception that people who exercise regularly are at less risk for suffering a back injury. Despite the utilization of proper lifting techniques, an unexpected twist or force will injure the back. Not having an ergonomically correct workstation can cause injuries to a person’s back while they are sitting still. Women in general are afflicted by osteoporosis, which is a disease that reduces bone density. As a result, the bone tissue is thin and susceptible to fractures from something as innocuous as a sneeze.
Physical therapists work with you to stretch and exercise all 30 muscles in your back and the supporting muscles in your abdomen. Even a minor back injury needs physical therapy in order to heal correctly. Physical therapy is the most successful, non-invasive back treatment available. If you are suffering with any kind of back injury, work with your physician to determine what physical therapy treatment plan is correct for you.
Physical Therapy as a Treatment for Autism
Autism is classified as a pervasive development disorder, causing delays and abnormalities in many areas. Gross and fine motor skills delays are common in Autistic patients. These delays affect basic everyday activities including playing on the playground and holding a crayon. Children with Autism have low muscle tone and are unable to sit, stand, or walk for a prolonged period as a result. Physical therapists who specialize in pediatric therapy seek to build muscle strength and coordination. Techniques such as dance therapy, movement therapy, and general play therapy are utilized to increase the child’s skills. Pediatric physical therapists frequently travel to the child’s school site to enable practical application of these skills on the playground at the school. Sometimes aquatic therapy is used to assist the child in gaining muscle strength in a safe and comfortable environment. It is not uncommon for pediatric physical therapists to schedule group sessions with other Autistic children to enhance the experience and create a positive experience for all involved.
Autism is affecting more children with each passing year. Luckily, for the children affected with the disorder, the health care field is constantly coming up with innovative therapies to increase the child’s chances of being successful in their everyday lives.