Physical therapy provides rehabilitative practices to help people recover from impairments to their optimal movement functions or to alleviate recurrent pain in movement. Commonly people are referred to physical therapists post-injury. Physical therapists also are sought out by the patient themselves in seeking treatment for an ailment. Physical therapists understand the function of the body and are thus able to treat and help improve quality of life from simple concerns like posture to major treatment like post-hip replacement.
Physical therapy is often recommended by your doctor when treatment of a problem with your functionality or pain is necessary and out of the range of practice of your physician. It is beneficial to see a specialist when you have a body issue that needs fine-tuning.
Awareness of what problems frequently recive physical therapy referrals can help you evaluate whether you might be a candidate for physical therapy. Janet Freburger looked at the discharge data from acute care hospitals in North Carolina to determine which diagnoses received the most referrals to physical therapists. She was then able to examine the characteristics of the patients utilizing the services of physical therapists. Both stroke and joint replacement patients were the two most common diagnoses with physical therapy recommendations at these hospitals. Out of more than 2 million patients being treated, 22.5% were sent to physical therapists with an average age of the patient being 66 years old and 58% being female patients. Patients with joint replacement had physical therapy that didn’t vary much between the 128 hospitals studied. Stroke physical therapy programs were different across the hospitals. While this study looked only at hospitalized patient discharge instructions, it is useful for understanding that referrals can vary. I recommend that patients and their primary caregivers should become self-aware of treatment options instead of relying on discharge instructions alone.
The first step in determining if you need or would benefit from seeing a physical therapist is to evaluate yourself. Have you had an injury, surgery, soreness, stiffness, or trouble doing an activity of daily living? Do you have pain when you do specific movements? A physical therapist can work with you to improve your body movements, whether it’s your daily functioning, your range of motion, your flexibility, or your persistent pain. Make sure you find a credentialed physical therapist who has proper training and experience in your condition to make the most of your time.
Expect to be given homework by the therapist that you may do several times a week for a certain length of time until improvements are made and you finish working with the therapist. Ideally, the therapist will help you get better and improve. You do not need to become a regular to a therapist’s office for the same treatment that you can do on your own, although you may benefit from a tune-up visit if you sense your problem recurring.
Freburger, J. K., Shank, K. H., Knauer, S. R., & Montmeny, R. M. Delivery of Physical Therapy in the Acute Care Setting: A Population-Based Study (February 2012 ed., Vol. 92, pp. 251-265). Physical Therapy: American Physical Therapy Association.