Whether you have a chronic condition that causes constant pain or you have had a recent injury, seeing a physical therapist may be one step you can take before heading to a surgeon. According to the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), physical therapists can diagnose and manage movement dysfunction, enhance physical and functional abilities and restore, maintain, and prevent the onset, symptoms, and progression of impairments, functional limitations, and disabilities. In addition, they also can promote not only optimal physical function but optimal wellness, fitness and quality of life.
To establish a diagnosis, physical therapists collect the patients’ medical history and perform tests and measures to identify potential and existing problems. Once a physical therapist has determined a diagnosis, he or she can create a personalized plan for care.
Although physical therapists help people of all ages and abilities, there are many myths surrounding physical therapy including the idea that you must have a referral to get evaluated by a physical therapist or the idea that a regular physician can perform physical therapy. On the contrary, all 50 states and the District of Columbia (DC) allow patients to be evaluated by a physical therapist without a physician’s prior referral and physical therapy can only be performed by a licensed physical therapist. Regardless of what is causing your pain, if you are experiencing any of the following, you may be a good candidate for physical therapy.
1. I have a constant, dull pain that won’t go away. Many people believe that they must live with constant pain forever. This may not be the case. Pain-less movement is crucial to your quality of life, your ability to earn a living, and your independence. A physical therapist may be able to help relieve your pain by creating a program that will help your body recover and strengthen your joints and muscles.
2. I have a sharp, acute pain that is causing me extreme discomfort. A sharp pain anywhere on your body can be a sign of a serious problem. A physical therapist can help you identify why your pain won’t go away and reduce it. They can also use treatment techniques to help you restore function and prevent disability.
3. I have been taking medication and/or using a support brace that isn’t helping. Over-the-counter medications and support braces are made to ease temporary problems, but using them for too long may cause others. If your pain persists for more than a week, a physical therapist may be your best option. A therapist can teach you how to manage your injury recovery so that you can achieve long-term health benefits.
4. I got injured and the pain has lasted for more than a week. If you injure yourself while playing a sport or performing everyday activities and the pain lasts for more than a week, a physical therapist can help you identify why the pain won’t go away and place you on a program to prevent future injuries while doing the things that you love.
5. I have very limited range of motion and/or pain when I try to rotate my joints. If you have limited range of motion or it is painful to move your joints, you may be a perfect candidate for physical therapy. A physical therapist can address these issues by helping you through activities that improve range or motion issues and mobility.
The scope of physical therapy has increased to encompass a wide range of conditions and demographics ranging from newborns to the elderly. To ensure that you get the most out of a physical therapy program, make sure you comply with the recommendations made by your physical therapist and ask questions regarding your therapy, lifestyle changes, or modifications in your daily routine to positively impact your health.