What Is Physical Therapy?

Saunders Therapy Centers, Inc work in various settings, including private practice, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and nursing homes. They may also be found working in schools and the community. Treatments include passive exercises, massages, and treatments based on physical stimuli such as heat, cold, electrical currents, or ultrasound. They can also teach patients exercises and stretches to do at home.

Physical Therapy

A physical therapist (PT) is a healthcare professional who improves how your body moves. You might work with one to treat an injury or surgery, but many people use PT as part of a wellness plan for chronic conditions like arthritis and heart disease.

Unlike other healthcare providers, PTs specialize in diagnosing movement-related issues. They understand how different body systems integrate with movements and often examine more than just your problem area to determine if a site of pain is causing more widespread problems.

Most PT sessions involve exercising to improve mobility, strength, and balance. Your PT will show you which movements to do and then help you practice them between appointments. If you want to get better faster, it’s important to do your homework—or else your progress won’t stick.

Your PT might also use passive movements to move your joints and muscles to gain more flexibility or ease pain. They may also do heat therapy, which is used to relax tight muscles and improve range of motion. Cold treatment is also sometimes used, and it can speed up wound healing and reduce swelling.

Other types of physical therapy include sports PT, which helps athletes heal from injuries and reduce the risk of future injury; geriatric PT, which focuses on helping older adults manage age-related muscle and joint stiffness and pain; and neurologic PT, which addresses nerve-related conditions like Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis. Most PTs are board-certified specialists in their field, which means they have extensive knowledge of their specialty and the best practices for treating their patients.

In addition to their technical skills, PTs have the unique opportunity to form connections with their clients. As a result, it’s not uncommon for PTs to become emotionally invested in their clients’ success. This can make the treatment process more effective and help clients feel supported throughout their recovery. It also sets PT apart from other healthcare providers, who spend less time with their patients.

Many people experience pain and limitations that can be helped by physical therapy. It’s important for healing after surgery or injury or managing chronic conditions like arthritis, fibromyalgia, and chronic lower back pain.

A physical therapist can help you reduce pain, improve mobility and flexibility, increase balance and posture, decrease the risk of future injury, and learn how to prevent further problems. Getting physical therapy without a doctor’s referral is sometimes possible, but you should check with your insurance company first. Your therapist will evaluate your condition and develop a care plan, including hands-on treatments, that guides your therapy. They may use special equipment and exercises to address your symptoms, such as using electrical stimulation or applying heat or cold to relieve pain and reduce swelling.

Getting a physical therapist can be helpful for sports injuries, back or neck pain from sitting all day at work or the gym, or even conditions like chronic constipation or uterine fibroids. PT can also benefit patients who suffer from heart and lung conditions, as well as women’s health issues such as bladder incontinence or pelvic pain.

In addition to exercises, physical therapists use techniques like TENS and ultrasound to alleviate pain by blocking pain messages from the brain. Depending on your condition, your therapist might also move or massage parts of your body to increase blood flow and loosen tight muscles or joints.

The biggest benefit of physical therapy is that it can help you reduce or eliminate pain from an injury or chronic condition. It can also help you heal more quickly, reduce the need for opioids or other pain medications, and increase your quality of life.

It’s important to follow your therapist’s instructions and attend all appointments. This will help you heal faster and return to what you enjoy. You may have to switch therapists in large offices, so feel comfortable asking questions and communicating your needs to each therapist. If your treatment is helping but less than you’d like, ask your therapist for more guidance or advice.

The first appointment is always an evaluation, and it has three main parts:

  • A subjective conversation about your pain or injury
  • Objective assessment of your movement dysfunction
  • A final diagnosis and treatment plan

In the subjective assessment, your physical therapist will ask how your pain or injury impacts your daily life. They will also take measures of your range of motion, strength, and other factors like sensory and neurological function (e.g., how well you feel).

Your physical therapist will then discuss their findings and create a treatment plan. This will include your goals for feeling and functioning better, plus exercises or other targeted treatments to help you reach those goals.

During your follow-up appointments, your physical therapist will employ the hands-on treatment and exercises they have planned to help you. These sessions are generally 30-60 minutes. They may include passive therapies, such as massages, warm (fango) mud packs or heat lamps, or active movements that your physical therapist guides to improve joint mobility and reduce stiffness or pain.

A physical therapist will also use interventions to improve muscle function, including electrical stimulation and ultrasound. These modalities improve circulation, relax tight muscles, and increase the speed at which tissue heals.

In addition to these hands-on techniques, physical therapists also teach patients strategies they can implement on their own to manage symptoms, such as at-home exercises or stretches. Sticking with your plan and doing the stretches and exercises as often and in the right order as recommended is important.

Physical therapy can also be preventative, helping patients avoid injuries or pain by addressing any imbalances in movement before they develop. Using an in-depth knowledge of anatomy and physiology, your physical therapist will evaluate your movement to find where any imbalances might be present. Then, they can correct them and teach you techniques to maintain your newfound strength and healthy movement throughout your lifetime. They can also treat specific medical conditions, such as fibromyalgia or lymphedema.

Physical therapy costs depend on whether you have insurance and the number of sessions you need. Most insurance companies cover at least 50% of the costs, but you must pay your deductible first. If you don’t have insurance, a single session can cost between $75 and $150. The total cost of your treatment will depend on how many sessions are required and the length of each session.

Before you start therapy, check with your doctor to see if they recommend it. Then, find a physical therapist who accepts your insurance and will work within your coverage limits.

A good physical therapist will take the time to evaluate your injury and listen to you describe what is causing pain. Then, they will create a unique treatment plan for you and your injury. This will include exercises, modalities (such as massages and electrostimulation), and other techniques. It will also have suggestions on how to continue your recovery at home.

If you have insurance, the front desk at the physical therapist’s office can help you determine how much your treatment will cost. They will verify your insurance and tell you the self-pay or cash rate, usually less than the insurer’s co-pay.

When you arrive for your first appointment, bring your insurance card and any paperwork from your doctor related to your injury. The therapist will need this information to submit your claim to your insurance company. If you don’t have insurance, your therapist can give you an estimate of how much the session will cost and will discuss payment options with you.

Most health insurance providers require a prescription from your physician before they will cover the cost of physical therapy. If you have an HSA, FSA, or HRA account, these funds can be used to reimburse yourself for the cost of your therapy.

While shopping around for the best price on a mobile phone may save you money in the short term, seeking long-term treatment for an injury is a great way to prevent relapse and reduce your risk of future injuries. Investing in a physical therapist is a smart financial choice that can help you get back to living your life to the fullest.

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