Whether you have just been referred to a physical therapist or have been in physical therapy for some time, there are still many things you may not know. Physical therapy is a vast, complex field of practice that is full of surprises. Here are 6 things you probably didn’t know about physical therapy.
It’s Not Just Clinics and Muscles
Most people find their way to physical therapy in an outpatient clinic with a large, shared treatment room. They may be recovering from an injury or a surgery, or they might have chronic pain. But did you know that physical therapists work in a wide range of settings? Physical therapists can be found in nursing homes, schools, home health agencies, even the emergency room—in short, anywhere that patients can benefit from their services.
While musculoskeletal issues are widely known to benefit from physical therapy, there are numerous diverse types of physical therapy. These include, but are not limited to: cardiovascular rehabilitation, pulmonary rehabilitation, neurologic rehabilitation, and even wound care. In fact, a physical therapist may be able to treat vertigo in just one session.
Physical Therapists Hold Advanced Degrees and Pass Medical Board Exams
Many people are shocked to find that physical therapists are highly trained, with most holding at least one graduate degree and multiple certifications. Yet the field is so diverse, and the scope of practice so deep, that it simply is not possible to practice physical therapy with only a bachelor’s degree. In most states, physical therapists must also pass a medical board exam to gain a license to practice.
Physical Therapists Cannot Work Alone
Physical therapy is the ultimate collaborative mission. No matter how skilled the physical therapist is, the quality of treatment ultimately depends on the patient’s willingness to fully participate. Your physical therapist can tell you what to do, and ensure that you are doing it properly, but you must perform the hard work.
Your home exercise program is especially vital, as you will only see your physical therapist a few times per week. Faithfully following the program that your physical therapist designs for you will lead to faster healing and a better long-term prognosis. Be careful not to overdo it, though. If your physical therapist prescribes 5 repetitions per day of a particular stretch, don’t go up to 10 without first clearing it with your therapist. Rest is a key component of healing.
Physical Therapists Pay Close Attention
It is easy to think that your physical therapist isn’t paying much attention as you exercise, especially if the treatment room is full. It is also easy to assume that your conversations are just light banter. In reality, though, your physical therapist is continuously monitoring what you are doing and what you are saying.
If you tell your therapist verbally or through your body’s responses that an exercise is too hard, he or she will modify it so that you can successfully complete it. Likewise, if you communicate that an exercise is easy for you, your therapist will make it harder. The goal is always to find the sweet spot in which we are simultaneously challenging you and setting you up for success.
It’s Not the Spa
The word “massage” has a whole different meaning to a physical therapist than to a massage therapist. We use massage in very specific ways, to decrease tightness and improve mobility. Physical therapy massage should not actively hurt, but it may be surprisingly uncomfortable.
No Pain No Gain? Sometimes.
Your physical therapist will perform a detailed assessment at your first appointment, and again at various intervals during your treatment. He or she knows exactly when to encourage you to push through the pain, such as working on regaining range of motion after a joint replacement, and when to stop you from aggravating your condition, such as recovering from an overuse injury. Trust is a vital component of physical therapy, as you need to know that you can fully follow your therapist’s lead.
Founded by physical therapy innovator Dr. Joseph Simon, the Manhattan Physical Therapy and Pain Center is a leader in pain relief and injury recovery conveniently located in Midtown New York City. We offer several dedicated programs for different conditions, along with the latest innovations in physical therapy for all. If you are ready for the latest treatments for your pain or injury, we invite you to call us today at (212) 213-3480 to learn how we can help.