The Top 10 Things You Did Not Know About Physical Therapy

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Ever wonder what there is to know about physical therapy that you don’t already know? Here are the top 10 things you may not know about physical therapy.

10.  Physical therapists can work in a variety of settings such as hospitals, outpatient clinics, private practices, home health agencies, schools, nursing homes, and even the Emergency Room.

9.  In addition to working in different settings, there are different types of physical therapy. These may include orthopedic, acute care, post-operative care, cardiovascular and pulmonary rehab, lymphedema management, wound care, and neurologic rehabilitation.

8.  Physical therapists can treat vertigo. Positional vertigo, when you experience very brief bouts of dizziness with changes in position or movement of the head, is the most common cause of dizziness. It is a dysfunction of the vestibular system in the inner ear. It can successfully be treated in as little as one session with a physical therapist.

7. Physical therapists hold advanced degrees. I am shocked at the number of patients who are surprised when they find out that I hold a Doctorate degree, or even went to graduate school, to become a physical therapist. Many years ago, you could practice physical therapy with a bachelor’s degree. However, our scope of practice and knowledge of medicine has grown tremendously in the last few decades that most graduate programs offer an entry-level 3-year Doctorate of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree. Physical therapists have to pass a medical board exam in order to obtain their license to treat patients.

6.  In many states, you can be evaluated and treated by a physical therapist without seeing your doctor first. These states have Direct Access. More states are leaning towards this practice since the profession of physical therapy is growing so rapidly with the requirement of an advanced degree. Currently, Illinois is not a Direct Access state, and a patient needs a prescription from a doctor to be treated by a physical therapist.

5.  Physical therapists alone cannot diminish your symptoms. When treating patients, I often wish I had a magic wand to wave over an ailing body part. Unfortunately, we cannot perform magic. Physical therapy is successful when the patient and the therapist work together on creating a treatment plan in order to meet the patient’s goals.

4.  If you tell your physical therapist that an exercise is easy, we will make it harder. If you tell your physical therapist that you can’t do an exercise, we will find a way to ensure that you can.

3.  When a physical therapist tells you they are going to massage a muscle, it may not feel like the nice relaxing massage you get at the spa. Massage performed in therapy is to decrease tightness and tone and to improve tissue mobility of a specific muscle that may be very inflamed or the source of joint pain.

2.  “No Pain, No Gain” does not always hold true. There are a few diagnoses where this saying holds true, such as when working on range of motion after a knee replacement or if you have a frozen shoulder. Most of the time, treatments and exercises should be relatively pain-free. If being treated for low back pain or an overuse injury in a tendon, you want to stay away from certain movements or positions that may aggravate the condition.

1.  It is so important to do your home-exercise program! There is a reason that your physical therapist puts in the time and effort of designing a home program specifically for you. If you don’t follow their recommendation during therapy or after you are discharged, you will get to know your therapist very well because you will be seeing them again and again for the same problem.

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