Why You Should See Your Physical Therapist First
October is #NationalPhysicalTherapyMonth and the goal of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) is to choose PT as well as advocate for preventative care. Did you know that a Physical Therapist is an appropriate option to consult with for medical conditions beyond sports injuries or surgery. Most people don’t!
The role of Physical Therapist is dynamic and not exclusive to rehabbing injuries. PT’s serve as catalyst to maximize your movement, manage pain, avoid surgery and prescription drugs, manage chronic (long-term) conditions, and recover from and prevent injury.
Here’s a few benefits of Physical Therapy
Maximize Your Movement
Known as movement specialist, Physical Therapists identify, diagnose, and treat movement problems. They help people maintain, restore and optimize movement. Physical function and movement are very important to:
- Health, wellness, and fitness.
- Managing pain.
Get the Recommended Amount of Physical Activity
Did you know that moving your body has physical, mental and social health benefits? Oftentimes it is a primary tool in the management of many chronic conditions, such as:
Physical therapists may work in collaboration with strength coaches and personal trainers to devise programs or may do so independently.
Physical therapists help get people back into healthy movement (you’re never too old to start).
Care For Your Specific Needs
PT’s evaluate and assess you specific conditions and then design treatment plans aimed to address a person’s needs, challenges, and goals. They work together with you to develop strategies and help you achieve your goals. Physical therapists work with people across the lifespan with varying abilities.
Manage Pain and Avoid Opioids
While doctor-prescribed opioids are suitable for some cases, they only mask pain and do not get to the root of the problem. Physical therapy is an optimal solution to getting to the cause of the problem, desensitizing the nervous system and improving overall function. Opioid risks include depression, substance use disorder, overdose, and withdrawal symptoms when stopping use.
To manage long-term pain, the CDC recommends safer options like physical therapy.
We can’t prevent all injuries, trauma does just happen and surgery is sometimes necessary. However, not all surgery is necessary and many can be avoided. Working with a Physical Therapists can identify movement dysfunction to help people manage pain and improve quality movement. This work can minimize risk of movement problems becoming chronic thus leading to surgery.
Physical therapy helps to reduce the symptoms of many chronic diseases and conditions. It also can keep many problems from getting worse. Physical therapists can help you avoid the need for, and the costs and risks of, surgery.
Research shows that physical therapy is as effective as surgery for some conditions, including:
Before you have surgery, try physical therapy first!
In some cases, surgery cannot be avoided. Physical therapy helps people prepare for and recover after surgery.
Participate in Your Recovery
PT’s empower people to take an active role in their care. By working in collaboration with you and other providers, they make sure patients receive the best care.
All that said, I want to make it very clear that physical therapy isn’t just for rehabbing after surgery or for older individuals who suffer from falls. Physical Therapists specialize in many different fields including cardiopulmonary, pelvic floor, pediatrics, neurologic, geriatrics, sports, orthopedics, and more.
Why do people not typically think of Physical Therapy for their medical needs?
So my opinion on this is probably not popular. PT’s are not great sales people. Chiropractors have way more business training in school than PT’s. In a 2012 study by Fritz & Childs, less than 7% of patients with musculoskeletal disorders utilized outpatient physical therapy. Physical therapist are often benevolent individuals who get into the profession to help people and our training minimizes our autonomy, training us to be puppets of physicians.
One of the other main problems with our lack of visibility and utilization in the healthcare system is that fact that physical therapists themselves can’t appropriately identify and describe our profession. The lack of consistency in identify leads to poor awareness and uptake.
Because of this inconsistently, consumers of physical therapy services aren’t clear on what we offer (hence why 93% don’t utilize our services). We market our services and not the experience or the benefit to the consumer. Many physical therapy practices don’t even market directly to the user they market exclusively to physicians leaving them to be directors of care instead of inserting ourselves as the leader in a healthcare journey.
I’ll leave you with a few other myths I think are good to debunk and empower you to find a provider to include in your care team!
[Excerpt below from ww.ChoosePT.com]
1. Myth: I need a referral to see a physical therapist.
Fact: A recent survey by the APTA revealed 70% of people think a referral or prescription is required for evaluation by a physical therapist. However, a physician’s referral is not required for you to be evaluated by a physical therapist. Some states have restrictions about the treatment a physical therapist can provide without a physician’s referral and some insurance companies require a referral. Check out APTA’s direct access summary chart (.pdf) to see the restrictions in your state.
2. Myth: Physical therapy is painful.
Fact: Physical therapists seek to minimize your pain and discomfort—including chronic or long-term pain. They work within your pain threshold to help you heal, and restore movement and function. The survey found that although 71% of people who have never visited a physical therapist think physical therapy is painful, that number significantly decreases among patients who have seen a physical therapist in the past year.
3. Myth: Physical therapy is only for injuries and accidents.
Fact: Physical therapists do a lot more than just stretch or strengthen weak muscles after an injury or surgery. They are skilled at evaluating and diagnosing potential problems before they lead to more serious injuries or disabling conditions—from carpal tunnel syndrome and frozen shoulder, to chronic headaches and lower back pain, to name a few.
4. Myth: Any health care professional can perform physical therapy.
Fact: Although 42% of consumers know that physical therapy can only be performed by a licensed physical therapist, 37% still believe other health care professionals can also administer physical therapy. Many physical therapists also pursue board certification in specific areas such as neurology, orthopedics, sports, or women’s health, for example.
5. Myth: I can do physical therapy myself.
Fact: Your participation is key to a successful treatment plan, but every patient still needs the expert care and guidance of a licensed physical therapist. Your therapist will leverage his or her specialized education, clinical expertise, and the latest available evidence to evaluate your needs and make a diagnosis before creating an individualized plan of care.
About the author:
Dr. Sarah Cash Crawford, PT, DPT, COMT, CMTPT, is a Physical Therapist and Certified Pilates Instructor. She has been a practicing physical therapy for over 10 years. With a background in neurologic rehabilitation, manual therapy and a specialty in treating chronic pain, Dr. Crawford has advanced training in orthopedic manual physical therapy and holds a certification in Geoffrey Maitland’s approach.
She was also the first student certified by Myopain Seminars in Dry Needling, holding her Certified Myofascial Trigger Point Therapist credentials since 2014. Dr. Crawford studied Pilates early in her practice to further expand her treatment options to help patients overcome physical limitations. Dr. Crawford is the founder of the Anchor Wellness Center, an integrated health and wellness collaborative.