Physical Therapy: What You Should Know Before You see a Physical Therapist

I like to think that I have good intentions when it comes to staying in shape. Not long ago, I decided to increase my regular workout routine by taking up a new sport: tennis. I began attending lessons and playing a few times a week as practice.

Physical Therapy While my heart was in the right place, I overlooked a key element that’s important to beginning a new fitness regime. Instead of charging full speed ahead into the new sport, I should have been slowly integrating new activity into my regular life.  I also ignored my body when I first noticed pain from working too hard. I didn’t slow down, until my body finally made me.

As a result of my good intentions, I ended up with an injury that wasn’t serious enough to require surgery but not mild enough to go away with  home remedies or over-the-counter pain relievers. Instead, my doctor prescribed rest and six weeks of physical therapy.

What Is Physical Therapy?
Physical therapy is a treatment that is usually completed over several weeks or months with the goal of helping you to improve movement and relieve pain. It might be recommended after surgery, following an injury or to help manage a chronic condition.  By completing physical therapy, you’ll likely be able to complete daily tasks much more easily and with less pain. Physical therapy is also meant to give you the skills needed to better manage your injury or condition so that you can continue to improve on your own and avoid further injury.

Do I Need Physical Therapy?
If you’ve recently experienced a non-urgent injury, it’s a good idea to see your regular doctor or primary care physician (PCP) first. Your doctor will be able to evaluate you and decide which treatment option is best for you.  Instead of physical therapy, you may need surgery or you may be able to treat your injury at home.

In addition to an injury, you should also visit your doctor if you have a chronic condition that impairs your mobility. Once you visit your doctor or PCP, he or she will evaluate you to determine if physical therapy is right for you.

My Doctor Prescribed Physical Therapy. Now What?
If your doctor recommends that you see a physical therapist, your next step is to schedule an initial evaluation. This could take place in a doctor’s office or in your own home. During this evaluation, your physical therapist will examine you and decide on a plan of care that is specific to your body and needs. Their treatments should help you to restore or improve function,  reduce pain, increase your mobility and help prevent disability.

Throughout your treatment, your therapist will work to reduce swelling in your muscles and joints. This may include heat, cold, massage therapy, ultrasound, and teaching you extra techniques that you can take home and try on your own.

In addition to the above, your therapist may use exercise to help you improve. Some excercises you’ll do could include weight lifting, resistance training walking or stretching. During your sessions, your therapist will monitor your movements and help ensure that you are using the correct technique. Afterward, they also will likely prescribe exercises for you to do outside of your sessions.

Gym TherapyThese exercises may change over the course of your treatment and will likely become a part of your regular post-treatment life. While you’ll likely start to feel the benefits of physical therapy while you’re in treatment, one of the goals of physical therapy is to give you the tools to better manage your condition and prevent further injury. In this regard, physical therapy can introduce lifelong changes.

Life after Physical Therapy
Once you finish your therapy sessions, your physical therapist will give you extra instructions toadd what you’ve learned into your day-to-day life. Some of these instructions will include stretches and exercises to do every day or suggestions for easing back in to regular activity.

Following your physical therapist’s instructions will help you to get the most out of your physical therapy sessions. I know that, for me, this was an important step in getting back into regular exercise. It can also help prevent against further pain or injury.

For more information, visit the American Physical Therapy Association.

Sources: American Physical therapy Association, Mayo Clinic, WebMD

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