Ever had an ache or pain and thought, “I really should get physical therapy for that”?
And if you haven’t, why not?
Many of us might think about popping some ibuprofen first—or something stronger. Or we think, “Physical therapy is just if you have something really wrong with you.”
Actually, physical therapy can offer great benefits for many different patients. That includes anyone with pain, athletes, older adults, anyone who may need surgery for muscle or joint problems, and anyone suffering from a neurological issue.
“Think of us as human movement experts,” said Dr. Valerie Hogan, a physical therapist and professor at Augusta University. “We do things that will help people return to function safely, efficiently and with less pain. We focus on quality of life and helping patients achieve their goals.”
Reason No. 1: If you have pain
PTs can collaborate with doctors to help patients who have problems related to primarily to musculoskeletal and neuromuscular systems, among others. But PTs can also treat patients directly, depending on your insurance. Say your knee has been hurting—you could see a PT first. “From their questioning and examination, a physical therapist would be able to know if your pain is actually coming from your knee and they can treat it, or if you need to see a doctor,—or sometimes both.” said Hogan.
If you have chronic pain, PTs can talk to you to figure out all the different components of your pain. They can then prescribe exercises to help patients get stronger and reduce pain. Perhaps most importantly, they can prescribe exercises that don’t hurt while patients are doing them. PTs can also offer strategies to help people move at work. This can include incorporating little exercises into a sedentary job or working on conditioning and/or modifications for those who need to do repetitive activities that could make their pain worse. “Most people with chronic pain problems will experience some benefit if they can understand their pain and engage in a general conditioning and fitness program,” said Hogan.
Reason No. 2: If you have a sports injury
Sports medicine PTs work with everyone from kids in youth sports to professional athletes. They can help treat both minor and major injuries, and most importantly from the athlete’s perspective, keep them competitive and, when appropriate, still allow them to safely play in their sport with their injury.
Sports medicine PTs can even help healthy athletes improve their performance on the field, says Hogan.
Reason No. 3: If you have balance or other issues related to aging
Especially for older adults who haven’t remained active, “physical therapy can play a huge role in keeping older adults functional, improve their fitness and stay more healthy,” said Hogan.
That includes older adults who might be moving slower because of arthritis or other conditions or diseases. “We can help them overcome those barriers,” she said, through strengthening and balance exercises, as well as cardiovascular exercise.
Reason No. 4: If you need surgery for a muscle or joint problem
It’s true: For some patients, physical therapy can help safely delay surgery of some musculoskeletal issues—even for a significant amount of time—so it can be done when it’s a better fit for your schedule. The orthopaedic surgeon should always be included in these discussions, but in some cases physical therapy may even be able to help you decrease pain and improve function enough to avoid surgery altogether. And consider this: Physical therapy on the whole is much less expensive than surgery.
If you do need surgery, physical therapy can also be necessary in recovery, giving patients appropriate exercises so they can heal and get back to their normal strength and range of motion “so patients can do whatever type of activity they need or want to do,” said Hogan.
Reason No. 5: If you’ve had a stroke or have another neurological problem that affects how you move
Some patients can regain their normal function after stroke thanks to treatment and physical therapy. Physical therapy for neurological problems plays a big role in helping patients stay functional and improve quality of life in the face of diseases that are progressive in nature, said Hogan.
PTs can use different strengthening or movement techniques, teach better gait patterns for walking, or help manage and reduce severity of symptoms that affect how you move.
Physical Therapy for Everybody
But, none of these reasons can happen unless you actually seek out physical therapy, said Hogan.
For anyone, it may be a good idea to check in with a PT once every six months or once every year—“A PT can do an evaluation and give suggestions on areas you need to focus on when it comes to strengthening, stretching, general capabilities and fitness,” said Hogan.
We restore function and improve lives.
Augusta University Orthopaedics offers comprehensive yet specialized services for any musculoskeletal injury or disease, including bones, muscles, and nerves— from the complex to the most straightforward. Learn more at augustahealth.org/ortho.
The Augusta University Ortho On-Demand clinic provides orthopaedic walk-in care treating those with sports, work and home-related injuries. Call 706-721-2741 for any questions or learn more at augustahealth.org/ondemand.
No appointments or referrals required. Hours: Monday through Thursday 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Friday 1-4 p.m.