Many people have relied on the expertise of a physical therapist at one time or another. Physical therapists are specifically trained to diagnose movement dysfunctions, which can lead to pain, decreased activity, or even disability.
Still, there are many misconceptions about the causes of pain and how physical therapists can help you deal with them.
Pain symptoms commonly start as a nuisance before progressing to a much bigger problem. Maybe your pain comes and goes, maybe you can manage your pain with ibuprofen/Tylenol, or maybe your symptoms only occur at night while resting.
You may not know it, but your body is telling you something. It’s possible that your pain is related to the mechanics of how you move.
We don’t wait to go to the mechanic until after our wheels fall off; we go as soon as they start to rumble as we drive down the road. So why do we do it to our bodies? As soon as you notice a decline in function or pain with day-to-day activites, that is the best time to get the problem diagnosed and corrected.
Pain can limit the easiest of tasks, sometimes making us fearful of moving or getting out of bed. Considerable research in the past decade concluded that bed rest may be the worst thing for your pain. Physical therapists are trained to diagnose the causes of why you hurt. By staying home you are missing an opportunity to understand why you are hurting and possibly delaying your recovery by not correcting the underlying problems.
X-rays are wonderful tools that help diagnose serious conditions such as fractures, bony abnormalities and tumors. These conditions are uncommon for most aches and pains. Physical therapists are trained to screen for serious pathologies, and it is their job to refer you back to you doctor if there is any indication that you have a condition requiring medical treatment other than physical therapy. By seeing a physical therapist early, you will speed your recovery.
Even if you are one of small number of unlucky patients who has a more serious condition, a physical therapist can screen you for other issues such as swelling and pain. You also may benefit from valuable instruction to properly manage day-to-day activities and to avoid additional problems while you are healing/recovering.
Physical therapy is not just about assigning exercises; it is about a patient having the right exercises, at the right time, and doing them in the right way. It takes a skilled eye to identify where your body is compensating for pain. Do you realize you move differently when you are in pain? Do you know when you start to slouch while at work or watching TV at home? Research shows that combining exercise with hands-on therapy is better than exercising alone.
Your physical therapist can help improve how your body moves — before and after you exercise — to help decrease pain and allow you to return to the activities you love.