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What is PT?

From the very young to the very old, at some point in our lives we experience injury, or other health related conditions that may temporarily limit our ability to move and perform normal functional daily activities.  That’s where a physical therapist comes in!  This post and those following will offer information on the field of physical therapy and what it may offer you.  We will will focus on common diagnoses or impairments, how exercise and physical therapy may help restore movement and reduce pain, and insight into emerging procedures and technologies in the field.

Also called PT’s, physical therapists use treatment techniques to promote the ability to move, reduce pain, restore function, and prevent disability. In addition, PTs work with individuals to prevent the loss of mobility before it occurs by developing fitness and wellness-oriented programs for healthier and more active lifestyles.

Physical therapists are considered movement specialists.   In fact, the American Physical Therapy Association has a vision statement for the profession – “Transforming society by optimizing movement to improve the human experience.”  And this is truly at the heart of our goals for each patient.  To a PT, every patient is unique.  Every patient has their own individual strengths, weaknesses, and goals, and it takes an individualized program to help reach these goals.  While it is commonly heard in the treatment room, it is rarely beneficial to compare your injuries, surgery, symptoms or treatment plan to someone else’s.  Every patient responds differently, and each situation has its own unique characteristics. 

As current and former PT patients all know, treatment is rarely a one-time fix, and never ends at the clinic’s exit door.  PT patients get homework!  As p art of the standard treatment plan, your PT will generally develop at-home exercise and movement programs designed to help each patient keep moving and performing daily functions, pain-free.

But PT’s don’t just focus on post-operative recovery.  PT’s routinely provide treatment for arthritis, stroke and other neurological problems, industrial and work-related injuries, sports injuries, burns, even helping patients with balance issues.  In many cases, physical therapy has been shown to be as effective as surgery in improving function and movement with injuries such as meniscus tears, osteoarthritis, degenerative disk disease, and rotator cuff tears.  A study carried out by the Health Services Research journal looked into patients with a new episode of lower back pain.  It found that using physical therapy as a first treatment resulted in 72% fewer costs for the patient, within the first year.  Keep these facts in mind when working with your primary care physician to choose your next course of action. 

Remember, you have a choice in healthcare and treatment options.  Advances in techniques and treatment plans make physical therapy a viable alternative to surgery in many instances.  You can always choose surgery if physical therapy does not show improvement.