If you’re in pain, suffering from limited mobility or can’t engage in your normal daily activities, chances are you have considered undergoing physical therapy. But, if other options exist to remedy your condition, you may be wondering if physical therapy is the right choice for you. And, you may have a lot of questions about the physical therapy process — whether it’s painful, expensive, effective, and if it really can make a difference. There are many common misconceptions about physical therapy, so it’s important to get the facts before making a decision.
You don’t need a referral to see a PT
If you’re worried that you can’t consult with a physical therapist (PT) without a referral from your doctor, be assured. Every state in the U.S., as well as DC, allows patients to get a physical therapy evaluation and some sort of treatment without a physician referral or prescription. According to the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), there are restrictions in some states on the type of treatment a physical therapist can provide without a referral, so it’s a good idea to access the APTA direct access summary chart (.pdf) to see the restrictions in your state.
Physical therapy is (not really) painful
PTs want you to reduce or even eliminate your chronic or long-term pain, so they design their treatment to help you heal, while restoring movement and function. While you may experience some discomfort as you push yourself to new limits, your PT knows your pain threshold and always works within that guideline to ensure that the physical therapy treatment itself is not painful. Most patients who have received physical therapy treatment can attest to this fact. Physical Therapy works to make you feel better, not worse.
Physical therapy is for more than injuries or accidents
Sure, most people are familiar with the work that physical therapists do after they, or someone they love, has suffered an injury or an accident that required surgery, such as a broken hip. But, did you know that PTs are skilled at working with patients to recognize, prevent and treat disabling conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome, frozen shoulder, chronic headaches and lower back pain?
Only a PT can perform physical therapy
You may have heard otherwise, but only a licensed physical therapist has the specific education and training to perform physical therapy. The path to becoming a licensed PT is arduous. First, a candidate must possess an undergraduate degree in biology, athletic training, movement science, kinesiology, psychology, or related fields that qualify them for graduate education. Then, the candidate needs to successfully complete a professional graduate programs in physical therapy. The grad programs prepare students in anatomy, neuroscience, physiology, movement science, therapeutic exercise, manual therapy techniques, developmental disorders, pharmacology, human development, discharge and care planning. Many PTs specialize further by obtaining board certification in specific practice areas such as neurology, orthopedics, geriatrics, pediatrics, sports, or women’s health.
Physical therapy is often covered by insurance
Insurance companies have realized that physical therapy actually reduces healthcare costs by helping patients avoid falls, unnecessary imaging scans, surgery or prescription drugs. That’s why most insurance policies will cover some sort of physical therapy. Check your policy to be sure of your specific benefits.
Surgery is not your only option
There are so many cases in which physical therapy has been proven to be as effective as surgery. Surgery is costly, temporarily debilitating and not always a final fix. It’s not uncommon for patients to require additional surgeries, or revisions to previous surgeries. It makes sense to investigate PT as a viable alternative to surgery — for everything from rotator cuff tears and degenerative disk disease, to meniscal tears and knee osteoarthritis.
You can’t do physical therapy alone
Think of all the things you would never dream of doing yourself. To be done properly, some jobs simply require an expert. So, when your health, mobility and happiness are on the line, you shouldn’t think twice about getting the expert care and guidance of a licensed physical therapist. A PT’s toolkit includes their specialized education, clinical expertise and the latest available evidence. He or she will use all of these tools to evaluate your needs, make a diagnosis and customize your plan of care.
A life altering experience.
From eliminating pain to improving mobility, physical therapy and short term rehab can radically change a patient’s outlook on life. It has the power to return freedom of movement and quality of life. Evergreen Health and Rehab is a key resource of short-term rehabilitation in the northern Shenandoah Valley. Typical conditions that bring residents to Evergreen include recovery from hip and knee fractures, hip and knee replacement surgeries, stroke, injuries from falls, and debilitating illnesses that require physical re-strengthening through occupational and physical therapy. Other types of short-term rehabilitation needs include prosthetic training; swallowing, speech and communication skills; and retraining in daily living skills.
Contact Evergreen Health and Rehabilitation for more information on short-term rehabilitation and other questions regarding physical therapy.