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Things All People Should Know about Physical Therapy

Post by Beth Collier, PT, DPT, OCS

So often after treating patients for a few visits, they express to me how they have had a very different view of physical therapy up until this point. So, I decided to put together a list of things that everyone should know about physical therapy!

1. Not all Physical Therapy is created equal:

While it is true that all physical therapists must take the same licensing exam and graduate from an accredited university who must cover the same basic information, not all PTs practice the same. Emphases of skills, areas of specialization or interest as well as personal beliefs are just a few of the factors that shape an individual’s practice as a physical therapist. You may know physical therapists that specialize in exercise or some who specialize in hands-on treatment. One is not necessarily better than the other; it is just a matter of appropriate application in any given situation.

2. Not all injuries are created equal:

Although you may have known someone who benefited from a certain treatment for a specific diagnosis, others who have the same diagnosis do not necessarily respond in the same way. The best treatments are customized to individual patients rather than to general diagnoses. What may be best for you, may not be appropriate for others and vice versa.

3. You can CHOOSE a PT that meets your needs… see #1:

Generally speaking, doctors will refer their patients to physical therapy based on any number of different factors. Sometimes it may be convenience of location to your home, or convenience of location to their office, or it may be because of the reputation of a specific clinic or physical therapist. Knowing their rationale for sending you to a specific PT can be helpful to patients in the long run. If they just happen to grab a paper with a specific clinic’s information on it, it does not mean that is the only location you can seek for treatment. A referral for PT can be used anywhere you choose, not only where the doctor recommends. And if you are not satisfied with your care in one setting, you can always seek help elsewhere. Though, frequent changing of healthcare providers is generally discouraged as it can be difficult to establish continuity of care and observe your response to treatment.

4. In some states, you do not have to see a physician before seeking help from a physical therapist:

Call your PT to find out if your state requires physician referral or allows direct access to a PT without physician referral.

5. Physical therapy is more than just exercise and heating pads:

While exercise and “feel good” treatments are necessary in most cases, they should not be the only form of treatment that any patient receives. Physical therapists are truly movement specialists and should emphasize correction of unhealthy movement patterns. Even if the source of pain or irritation is treated to feel better, the reasons that injury occurred must also be evaluated and addressed to decrease the risk of further injury later on. I often give the analogy that we would never imagine auto mechanics are only meant to change oil and tires. They must understand how the whole car works- as in realigning your tires so that they do not wear as quickly to avoid frequent new tire purchases. The same would apply as a physical therapist understanding how your body works as a system.

6. Physical therapists can assist you with your wellness and fitness goals as well!:

Physical therapists are trained to adapt exercise to each individual person, depending on the intent of the exercise and the patient’s abilities. For this reason, physical therapists are great at prescribing an individual fitness and wellness regimen, especially when there are individual complicating factors, such as disease, pain, medical issues, or high level performance. In general, everyone can benefit from some type of physical activity, and physical therapists are the perfect resource for providing safe and effective programs for everyone to achieve their goals.

If you have any questions about physical therapy or how a physical therapist can help you, be sure to contact the physical therapists at Motion Stability. We are always happy to answer any questions or address any concerns you may have.

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Medical Disclaimer: Motion Stability has created and compiled the content on its websites for your information and use. This information is not intended to replace or modify the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. Please remember that the information and content, in the absence of a visit with a health care professional, must be considered as an informational/educational service only and is not designed to replace a physician’s independent judgment about the appropriateness of risks of a procedure or condition for a given patient. 

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