Getting sick and being hospitalized is not a fun experience at all. Even more, if you suffer an injury that prevents you from doing what you used to, such as participating in sports, running a marathon, or standing on your own.
Enter physical therapy. It is a medical profession that helps patients restore mobility and reduce pain so they can live healthier and more fulfilling life. But, more importantly, anyone across all ages can benefit from physical therapy, Even children, the elderly, and athletes who want to improve their physical level!
This article will discuss everything you need to know about physical therapy and how to use it to enhance your physical health and improve the quality of your life.
What is Physical Therapy?
Physical therapy is a medical profession that seeks to improve quality of life, facilitate mobility, promote recovery from injuries, and optimize health and wellness.
In a deeper sense, physical therapy allows people to recover from injury, eliminate pain and regain various aspects of their lives. For example, it is a means to allow athletes to play competitively again or enable grandparents to hold their grandchildren and stay active in life. If medical doctors add years to life, physical therapists add life to years.
Physical therapists are licensed movement experts. They are trained medical professionals specializing in human anatomy and kinesiology. They are qualified to diagnose and treat injuries, disabilities, and other medical conditions.
Physical therapy can help you ease pain and help you move and live better. You can use it to:
- Relieve pain
- Improve joint movement
- Prevent or recover from a sports injury
- Prevent surgery
- Rehabilitation after a stroke, heart attack, or accidents
- Improve your balance and coordination
- Prevent a slip or fall
- Manage chronic diseases such as hypertension, arthritis, or heart disease
- Have better control over your bowels or bladder
- Adapt to an artificial limb
- Get a split or brace
- Improve posture
- Increase strength and flexibility
What are the conditions physical therapy may help with?
Physical therapy mainly focuses on the treatment of musculoskeletal and neurologic conditions. In addition, most treatment strategies involved in physical therapy can provide additional treatment for various medical conditions.
Here are some of the conditions that physical therapy can help you with:
- Bone fracture
- Nerve impingement
- Muscle strain
- Ligament tear
- Joint dysfunction
- Spinal cord injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Heart attack
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- Restrictive lung disease
- Pelvic floor dysfunction
- Cerebral palsy
- Diabetic ulcers
- Parkinson’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis
Where can I get physical therapy services?
Most hospitals have a rehabilitation department that offers physical therapy services. Additionally, you can also find private clinics that specialize in rehabilitation and are handled by licensed physical therapists.
In many countries, physical therapists are qualified to offer direct access to their patients, this means that they can diagnose and treat patients with medical conditions properly without needing a referral from a medical doctor.
Some physical therapists also offer their professional service in the comfort of your home.
How much does Physical Therapy Cost?
The cost of physical therapy can vary depending on the severity of your condition and the type of therapy you need. In general, physical therapy services are covered by most health insurance plans.
Depending on your clinic or hospital, a physical therapy session can cost about $55 to $200. This includes assessment, exercise prescriptions, modalities, manual therapy, and other treatments your physical therapist will prescribe.
The exercises and treatments that will be done to you can differ in each session depending on the stage of your recovery and how well you respond to treatment. Physical therapy is a dynamic treatment approach that is customized to each patient’s goals.
What to expect during a physical therapy session?
Your physical therapy session will start with an initial evaluation by a licensed physical therapist. It is like a mini-interview; you will have to answer questions related to your general health to give a comprehensive background about your condition or injury.
Your physical therapist will then perform a series of physical tests and movement assessments to check your muscles, joints, and other structures that might be the root cause of your injury. After the evaluation, they will form a diagnosis and create a custom treatment plan for you.
Your therapist will explain their findings and educate you about your condition. They will also discuss with you their treatment plan and how they will help you achieve your goals and recover from injury.
Depending on your assessment, your treatment may include the following:
- Therapeutic exercises
- Ultrasound therapy
- Heat therapy / Cold therapy
- Soft tissue mobilization
- Stretching exercises
- Strengthening and functional training
- Postural awareness and correction
- Endurance training
- Joint mobilization
- Light therapy
What to wear to physical therapy?
A typical therapy session may involve therapeutic exercises and functional movements such as stretching, squats, and other strengthening exercises.
When you go to physical therapy, it’s essential to wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing that allows your joints to move freely. Additionally, you may want to bring a pair of sneakers or athletic shoes during your therapy sessions and a water bottle to stay hydrated.
You may also need to wear clothing that is easy to remove, especially if the treatment needs access to your lower back, hips, or knees.
How long are physical therapy sessions?
Physical therapy sessions typically last between 45 minutes up to an hour. However, the length of your therapy session will always depend on the type of treatment you’re receiving and the severity of your condition.
In some cases, you may need to attend physical therapy for a few hours a day or have the treatment multiple times per day. This is especially the case if you are getting treatment in a hospital after a severe injury or recovering from surgery, such as ACL repair or spinal surgery.
If you are an athlete looking to optimize your training performance, your therapy session could last for several hours, depending on your physical therapy program and athletic goals.
How long does physical therapy take?
Some patients may see significant improvement after just a couple of physical therapy sessions. In contrast, others may need several months of intensive rehabilitation to regain their full function and return to their previous level of activities.
The length of your physical therapy depends on the severity of your condition and the progress you are making toward your recovery.
Remember, each person is different. There are no two cases that are perfectly the same. Your overall health, nutrition, lifestyle, and compliance with home exercises can affect your recovery rate.
What’s the Difference Between Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy?
Occupational therapy and physical therapy work together closely in the field of rehabilitation. In some cases, patients would have to undergo both treatments to improve their condition significantly.
Both disciplines can help individuals recover from injury, improve their function, and maintain independence in daily activities. However, while these two fields share a common goal of assisting people to regain their quality of life, there are significant differences between them.
Injuries to the brain, spine, or hands can make it challenging for individuals to do even the simplest daily tasks, making them dependent on other people and unable to get back on their jobs. This is where occupational therapy comes in. It is a form of rehabilitation that helps people regain the ability to carry out their usual activities and return to their normal routines.
Occupational therapy treatments are designed to improve fine motor skills, coordination, and endurance, which are crucial for daily tasks such as dressing, using the bathroom, and eating.
Patients can also benefit from occupational therapy if they want to improve their ability to perform work-related tasks, such as using tools and typing on a computer.
On the other hand, physical therapy focuses on improving physical function, reducing pain, and removing other barriers that prevent a person from participating in society so they can live life to the fullest. For example, someone who has suffered a stroke may regain their mobility and balance and become more independent with the help of physical therapy.
Physical therapists use various techniques, including exercises, manual therapy, electro modalities, and many more, to help patients recover from their injuries or enhance their physical capabilities.
In addition, physical therapy is a cost-effective treatment for different medical conditions and has been a popular alternative to pain medications and surgery.
Physical therapy is a valuable and effective form of rehabilitation based on scientific evidence. People of all ages can use it to improve their mobility, manage pain and remove barriers to participation in society.
Whether you are recovering from an injury, managing a chronic condition, or simply looking to improve your physical abilities, physical therapy can help you achieve greater independence and optimize your health.