Physical Therapy...What is It Anyway?
I am sure you have heard a friend or family member say they are going to Physical Therapy. It might seem or appear like this was a chore or a job. Physical Therapy does not sound fun to most people.
Funny enough, 99% of our patients do not want us to discharge them from physical therapy. Why? Well because we become your person. We become the person who knows how to help you get rid of your pain. We help you move and feel better. We become your personal trainer. The person who gets you back to work, sports & exercising. We help you hit your goals. Sometimes we help you exceed them! Physical Therapy can do wonders for you life. So what is it?
Back in the day (well some clinics still do this unfortunately) physical therapy consisted of massage, ice, heat, ultrasound, electrical stimulation, and any other modality you can think of. Exercise, balance training and movement education were a part of the treatment sessions but not the focus.
Current day physical therapy is movement focused. How do you move? Do you move well. Are you strong? Flexible? Mobile? Do you have pain with certain movements ? Prolonged positions? Our goal is to get you moving and back all the things you need to participate in each day. This is not to say that modern day PT does not use any tools like soft tissue & joint mobilization, taping, cryotherapy, cupping, BFR and others to help us facilitate this process. Often times these other treatment options are great for pain control and support the healing process. We just don't like to make them to focus of our treatments mostly because we know the research states that exercise is the primary way to heal musculoskeletal and neuromuscular conditions and injuries. You can't argue with research!
A typical initial physical therapy session begins with your PT assessing your problem that day. Does it hurt to bend your knee. Is it swollen. Are you limping when you walk. Can you bend down to pick up things off the floor. Are you able to jump, hop, run. We like to start with talking about how you are doing today. Based on this assessment we may do some manual therapy or some manual resistive exercises to improve strength in the injured body part. We then take you through a variety of exercises that we feel are going to get you stronger, more stable, more mobile/flexible. We might work on you balance and control. We might work on your movement and/or acceleration mechanics. Sometimes we will have our assistants instruct you in these exercises if we believe they have the skill to do so. We typically issue you a home exercise program on this first session with a few things that we want you to perform daily at home to support your healing time. Your session typically ends with you feeling better than you did before and being able to do more than you could when you walked in our doors.
Your follow up sessions will usually start with a warm up or review of your last issued home exercise program to ensure you are performing all your exercises correctly and you don't have any questions. After this we jump right into some progressions from your last session. The goal is to make your exercises a little more challenging without exacerbating pain in your session. Session to session we spend time on progression and education to make sure you are doing things at home and work to support healing in your body. Most patients are seen 1-2 times a week for PT and for as many weeks it takes to get them pain free and back to all the things they did previously. As you pain is eliminated and you are doing more things without difficulty treatment shifts to the recreational activities or sports you need to return back to. Maybe you are a high school soccer player you plan to return to practice 3 days a week and games 2x a week. Treatment would focus on jogging, running, cutting, pivoting, speed drills, jumping and hopping, shooting and passing the ball. We would work to ensure you can handle the time on the field and the load on the injured area.
Physical therapy is a different experience for every individual. It really depends on the injury and what you need to be able to day. It also depends on your age, motivation, health status and injury history. We take all these things into consideration as we put together your rehab program and goals.
We are huge advocates for physical therapy but we do also recognize that not all PT is equal. Having a good PT will certainly impact your outcomes so be sure to work with a PT who is present during your sessions, asking lots of questions, checking in with you between sessions, and progressing your PT sessions every time. We don't want you to waste your time or money!
Need help with an injury? We got you. Send us a message. We can treat you onsite or virtually through Telehealth!
The PTSP Team
Dr. Brown, Dr. Daisuke, Dr. Sandoval, Kristin