If your doctor has recommended physical therapy following an accident, injury, or illness, you may have many questions regarding the process. While many people come with preconceived ideas about what physical therapy entails, modern treatment modalities have evolved over time and therapists treat conditions ranging from back injuries to incontinence and everything in between. Physical therapy is one of the single most beneficial things you can do to improve your health without relying upon medication or more invasive measures like surgical intervention. Read on to learn more about physical therapy and have some of your most frequently asked questions addressed.

What Is Physical Therapy?

Physical therapy is a type of healthcare that focuses on restoring movement and function to the body. It is often used to treat physical impairments or disabilities caused by an injury, illness, or surgery. Physical therapists use a variety of techniques to help patients improve their mobility, strength, flexibility, balance, and coordination. They seek to provide healing and pain relief, no matter what the underlying cause.

They utilize a variety of treatments and modalities that may include exercises, Myofascial Release, Connective/Soft Tissue Mobilization, Visceral Manipulation, stretches, a home exercise plan, core stabilization, massage, Rehabilitative Ultrasound Imaging, Cold Lasor Therapy, Joint Mobilization, electrical stimulation, Cupping/Gua Sha, ultrasound therapy, Surface EMG/Biofeedback, Iontophoresis, and Functional Trigger Point Dry Needling/Intramuscular Manual Therapy. Regardless of the treatment method employed by the therapist, each person is respected as an individual and will receive one or a combination of several of the above treatment modalities to address the underlying problem. That way symptoms can be resolved rather than covered up.

What Conditions Can Physical Therapy Treat?

Physical therapy can be used to treat a wide range of conditions, including but not limited to back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain, knee pain, ankle sprains and strains, arthritis, tendonitis, bursitis, post-surgical rehabilitation, sports injuries, balance disorders, incontinence issues, and more. Some physical therapists even specialize in conditions like pediatric physical therapy, prenatal/postpartum therapy, TMJ therapy, and Golf physical therapy to address the unique challenges associated with these conditions.

What Can I Expect During a Physical Therapy Appointment?

During a physical therapy appointment, your therapist will first assess your condition and develop a treatment plan tailored to your individual needs. This may include a combination of manual therapy techniques, exercises, stretches, and other modalities. Your therapist will then guide you through the treatment plan and provide feedback on how to best perform each exercise or activity. They may also provide education about your condition and how to prevent future injuries. As the weeks go on, your therapist will monitor your progress and adjust the treatment plan as needed with the ultimate goal being your healing and independence so therapy can be terminated.

What Type of Clothing Should I Wear to My Therapy Appointment?

It is important to wear comfortable clothing that allows you to move freely. Loose-fitting clothing such as shorts, sweatpants, and t-shirts are ideal. You may also want to bring a pair of sneakers or other supportive shoes for any exercises that require them. If you are being treated for an upper body injury, it is best to wear a tank top or sports bra so your therapist can access the area easily.

Do Physical Therapy Clinics Accept Medical Insurance?

Most physical therapy clinics accept medical insurance, including Medicare and Medicaid. However, it is important to check with your insurance provider to make sure that the clinic you are considering is in-network. Additionally, some clinics may require a referral from your doctor before they will accept your insurance. It is also important to note that some insurance plans may have limits on the number of visits or treatments that are covered. Henceforth, it is important to check with your provider before beginning treatment to ensure you have the proper coverage and don't end up with a nasty surprise bill later.

Is Physical Therapy the Same Thing as Occupational Therapy?

No, while they are similar in some respects, they have marked differences in their approach, as well as their areas of specialization.

Physical therapy primarily focuses upon restoring movement and function to the body, while occupational therapy focuses on helping people with disabilities or injuries to perform daily activities. Physical therapists use a variety of techniques such as exercise, stretching, massage, and manual therapy to help improve mobility and reduce pain, taking a whole-body approach to healing. Occupational therapists, on the other hand, focus more on specific areas of the body, such as the hands to help patients regain fine motor skills. They do so by utilizing a variety of techniques such as adaptive equipment, splinting, and cognitive retraining to help patients regain the ability to perform daily activities.

Do I Really Have to Bother Doing My Home Exercise Plan?

Yes, it is important to follow your home exercise plan as prescribed by your physical therapist. The exercises are designed to help you progress in your recovery and reach your goals. Doing the exercises regularly will also help you maintain the gains you have made during therapy sessions and prevent future injuries. Additionally, since they work hand in hand with the work you are doing during your sessions, it can help you recover faster and terminate therapy more quickly. However, if you are having difficulty with any of the exercises or activities, be sure to let your therapist know so they can adjust the plan accordingly.

Will Physical Therapy Be Painful?

No, physical therapy should not be painful. While it is normal to experience some discomfort during treatment, your therapist will work with you to ensure that the exercises are done in a way that is comfortable and safe for you. If you ever feel any pain or discomfort during a session, be sure to let your therapist know so they can make adjustments as necessary.

On Average, How Long Will I Need to Do Physical Therapy?

The length of time you will need to do physical therapy depends on the severity of your injury or condition and how quickly you respond to treatment. Generally speaking, most people can expect to be in physical therapy for 4-6 weeks; although, some may require more or less time depending on their individual needs. Your therapist will work with you to develop a plan that is tailored to your specific goals and progress.

In conclusion, physical therapy is a great option for those who are looking to improve their overall health and wellness. Therapy can help reduce pain, improve mobility, prevent future injuries, and increase strength and flexibility. It may even reduce or eliminate the need for medication and/or surgical intervention. So, what do you have to lose? Armed with the answers to your questions, today is the day to make a physical therapy appointment!

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