As a physical therapist, I've come across many questions about whether physical therapy is worth the time or money for any given injury. Some of the conversations I've had involve explaining what our profession does and how can it help. Many people associate physical therapy as "pain and torture" while others perceive it as "massage."
Physical therapy is a crucial component of the rehabilitation process for individuals with any orthopedic or sports injuries. It also applies in the hospital setting where people may be recovering from cancer or acute interventions. Here are some explanations of the benefits of getting physical therapy services for such injuries:
Manual Techniques: Physical therapists use hands-on techniques such as soft-tissue mobilization (not massage), joint mobilization, and manipulation (yes, physical therapists can manipulate) to reduce pain and improve mobility.
Modalities: Therapeutic modalities like electrical stimulation, cold/hot packs, dry needling, and laser therapy may be employed to manage pain and inflammation.
Improved Mobility and Range of Motion:
Stretching and Strengthening Exercises: Customized exercise programs are designed to target specific muscles and joints, promoting flexibility and increasing range of motion. These exercises should be tailored towards your specific injury to help improve your recovery efficiently.
Joint Mobilization: Techniques that involve guided passive movement of the joints help restore normal arthrokinematics and center of rotation.
Muscle Strength and Endurance:
Progressive Resistance Training: Gradual and controlled resistance exercises help rebuild muscle strength and endurance, addressing imbalances and preventing further injuries.
Functional Training: PT programs often include exercises that mimic daily or sports-specific activities to enhance functional strength. The more functional the exercises are, the more applicable they can be to translate over.
Enhanced Healing and Tissue Repair:
Therapeutic Exercises: Targeted exercises stimulate blood flow and promote the healing of injured tissues by providing them with the appropriate stress and load. This is good inflammation vs bad inflammation.
Education: Physical therapists educate patients on proper body mechanics, activity modifications, sleep and stress to facilitate optimal healing and minimizing the risk of re-injury.
Posture Correction and Body Mechanics:
Body Alignment: PT addresses issues related to posture and body mechanics, which can contribute to or exacerbate orthopedic problems. Just understand that posture is a piece of the puzzle, not something to hang your hat on.
Ergonomic Advice: Patients are educated on proper ergonomics in work settings to prevent injuries and promote overall musculoskeletal health.
Prevention of Recurrent Injuries:
Individualized Exercise Programs: Physical therapists create personalized exercise regimens that target specific weaknesses or imbalances, reducing the likelihood of re-injury. They can also design programs to help improve strength & conditioning goals to make the athlete even better than before!
Education and Lifestyle Modification: Patients learn techniques to modify their activities and lifestyle, reducing the risk of future injuries. This includes factors such as diet, stress, sleep and exercise.
Patient Education and Empowerment:
Understanding the Injury: PT sessions often include education about the nature of the injury, contributing factors, and the expected recovery process.
Self-Management Strategies: Patients are equipped with tools and strategies to manage their conditions independently, fostering long-term health and well-being. Our goal is to make you feel better, and stay better.
Improved Function and Performance:
Sports-Specific Rehabilitation: Athletes benefit from sports-specific rehabilitation programs that focus on restoring optimal function and performance in their chosen sport. This is crucial during the different seasons that the athlete is in or with the many sports that a young athlete can be involved with.
Progress Monitoring: Regular assessments allow adjustments to the treatment plan, ensuring continual progress towards functional goals. Think about it as routine maintenance. Our body's take on different loads & stresses that affect our function and ability to perform. It only makes sense to allow a physical therapist, who's the movement expert, to insure proper progression and prevention of injuries. We all need tune-ups throughout our training regimens.
Collaboration in the Healthcare Team:
Multidisciplinary Approach: Physical therapists often work in collaboration with other healthcare professionals, such as physicians, occupational therapists, speech pathologists, and even to ensure comprehensive care for the patient. In the sports arena, communication with the athletic trainers and/or strength & conditioning coaches are key to provide the best care for your athlete. Everyone has their given speciality, lean on each other to insure the best quality care for the patient.
Psychological and Emotional Well-being:
Pain Coping Strategies: PT includes strategies to cope with pain, contributing to the psychological well-being of the patient.
Motivational Support: The encouragement and support provided by physical therapists can positively impact a patient's motivation and adherence to the rehabilitation program.
As you can see, physical therapy plays a pivotal role in the comprehensive care and rehabilitation of individuals with orthopedic or sports injuries, addressing not only the physical aspects but also promoting overall well-being and preventing future issues.
If you're struggling with an injury and haven't tried physical therapy, give it a shot. I guarantee you that it's a better alternative than living off pain medications.