Dealing with painful arthritis or a sports injury? Physical therapy (PT) may be the answer.
Physical therapy is an area of rehabilitative medicine that focuses on alleviating pain and restoring mobility through a program of guided exercises and treatments. If you’ve suffered a sports injury, undergone orthopedic surgery, or are experiencing pain and stiffness from arthritis, your doctor may recommend a visit to a physical therapist. In fact, in many cases, PT is the preferred treatment method over surgery.
You might also see a physical therapist even if you aren’t experiencing any discomfort, but instead want an assessment of your posture, gait, movement, and overall musculoskeletal fitness in order to exercise more effectively. In that regard, PT can help improve your safety and prevent injuries.
Your physical therapist will work with you to create a plan that improves your flexibility, range of motion, and muscle strength. The goal is to eliminate pain so you can resume your regular exercise program — or simply perform your everyday tasks. It all begins with a comprehensive evaluation of your physical status and specific orthopedic disorder.
What to Expect From PT
PT treats numerous conditions, ranging from broken bones and tendon tears to chronic neck and back pain. If you’ve suffered a muscle strain or sprain or a repetitive injury from your daily workout, you’ll likely benefit from PT. PT often follows orthopedic surgery, such as a knee replacement, to help patients heal and adjust to their repaired joint. It can also help people suffering from spinal stenosis or other degenerative diseases like a herniated disc minimize their pain.
If you’ve suffered a sudden trauma, it’s best to visit your primary care doctor, who may recommend PT as a conversative treatment option. In those instances, your doctor will order an MRI or other imaging tests to diagnose the condition.
If referred for PT, your therapist will first want to get a complete picture of your health status, body mechanics, range of motion, and pain points. The physical therapist compiles that data as well as any in-person observations to devise a therapy plan featuring exercises to improve strength, mobility, posture, and balance — all with the aim of reducing your discomfort and getting you back to a pain-free lifestyle. Your therapist will then discuss your treatment goals and what you hope to gain from the program.
How many sessions of PT you need depends on your condition. Each session begins with several warm-up stretching exercises and then progresses through increasingly more challenging movements and repetitions. As you advance through the program, you can expect to feel less pain and experience greater flexibility. Your physical therapist will provide instructions for at-home exercises you can do to further your recovery or maintain your fitness level after PT has ended.
Types of PT
The term physical therapy covers several treatment models. The most common are passive and active range of motion exercises. During passive range of motion exercises, your physical therapist manually manipulates your joints or limbs. This technique aids patients recovering from surgery or those just starting a PT program. Meanwhile, active range of motion exercises require you to execute the routine, although your physical therapist will guide you.
Your physical therapist may also loosen tight muscles by applying gentle pressure or massaging the area. Physical therapy exercises can re-activate damaged nerves and muscles through repetitive motions, as well.
Ultimately, the purpose of PT is to enable you to once again perform your normal activities. Your physical therapist will show you how to do daily tasks — such as grooming, cooking, or walking — without overexerting your body.
In addition to stretching exercises, your physical therapist may also have you work out on a treadmill or stationary bike, followed by a cooling down period of either icing or heat. PT might involve devices that emit electrical impulses to stimulate nerves or muscles, or an ultrasound to break up scar tissue, heal muscles, and reduce swelling. Your therapist may use a combination of treatments to get you back on your feet and enjoying your favorite activities again.
Getting Started on Your PT Plan
The physical therapists at New York Bone & Joint Specialists strive to help every patient enjoy an active, pain-free lifestyle. We’re ready to create a PT plan based on your individual needs and preferences. By the time you finish your program, you’ll be stronger and more confident in your road to recovery. Contact us today to set up an appointment.