Is Physical Therapy Right for Me?

In this Article:
Is Physical Therapy Right for Me?
What is a Physical Therapist?
Do I Need Physical Therapy?
What are the Benefits of Physical Therapy?
What are the Common Conditions Treated by Physical Therapy?
What Happens During my First Visit with a Physical Therapist?
How can Physical Therapy Help?
New to Physical Therapy? What You Need to Know.
How Can Physical Therapy Help After Surgery?
Can Physical Therapy Help a Pinched Nerve?
What Is a Pinched Nerve?
What are the Causes of a Pinched Nerve?
How do I Make the Most of my Physical Therapy Sessions?
What is Physical Therapy Like?
Why is Physical Therapy Important?
How can Physical Therapy Help Lower Back Pain?
Contact Coastal Orthopedics for Physical Therapy Solutions

Is Physical Therapy Right for Me?

Physical therapy is a form of treatment that focuses on relieving pain, promoting healing and restoring function and movement, often in situations associated with injury. Therapists use non-invasive techniques to help improve strength, coordination, endurance, the range of motion and function in parts of the body where these things may be lacking.

Physical therapy can be helpful in a range of circumstances that is broader than many realize. Here are a few cases in which physical therapy may be right for you.

Serious Injury – If you experience pain as the result of a serious injury, such as a fracture or sprain, physical therapy could be an important part of your recovery.

Lingering Pain – Usually, soreness from overuse or a mild muscle pull will dissipate on its own after a few days of rest. Icing the area for 20 minutes several times a day, along with over-the-counter pain relief medicine should help ease the discomfort while your body heals. However, if pain lingers for more than a few days after it begins, it could be a sign of a more serious issue.

Sharp, Centralized Pain – If you begin experiencing a sharp pain in a centralized area of your body—especially if it comes in the middle of vigorous activity—do not ignore it. Severe and sudden pain could be the result of a severe muscle pull, stress fracture or other serious injuries.

Recurring Dull Pain – Your body will usually cure sore muscles on its own, but if your pain keeps coming back after certain activities or exercises, medical attention may be required. While it’s common to experience some discomfort or soreness after regular strenuous activity, you probably know what’s normal for your body. If, for example, you suddenly begin experiencing pain after your morning runs that you did not experience in the past, it may a sign of an underlying injury.

Noticeable Changes in Body – You know your body better than anyone, so if you notice something off, get it checked out. For example, if you begin to experience swelling in your knee every time you finish a tennis match, or it suddenly becomes tough to extend one of your elbows when there used to be no trouble, a serious issue may be taking root.

What is a Physical Therapist?

According to the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), a physical therapist is a licensed professional trained to diagnose physical abnormalities and restore function and mobility. With a licensed and experienced therapist, you can regain the motion in your joints and have improved mobility to get back to your daily activities. During the healing process after a surgery, it is common for patients to seek physical therapy to regain strength and mobility in their joints.

What Happens During my First Visit with a Physical Therapist?

During your first visit with a physical therapist, you will need to provide the front desk with paperwork, your insurance card, and your medical history. You will speak to the therapist about where you’re experiencing problems, your pain levels and how this pain is impacting your function and daily activities.

Your therapist will perform an evaluation, that could include some of the following:

• Palpation – Feeling around the problem area to check for tenderness, swelling, soft tissues integrity, temperature, and inflammation.

Range of Motion (ROM) – Moving the joints to see what type of movement you’re capable of and what restrictions you’re experiencing.

Muscle Testing – Checking strength and muscle movement and testing if there is any pain or weakness in the area.

• Neurological Screening – Checking how the nerves communicate with the muscles, sensing touch, pain, vibration, reflexes, or temperature.

• Special Tests – Performing special tests to confirm or rule out any additional issues.

• Posture Assessment – Assessing the ideal positions of the joints compared to each other.

After these tests are performed, your therapist will assess the results and develop a treatment plan. Your therapist will recommend how many times a week you should be treated, any home exercises you can do, short-term and long-term goals, and expected outcomes.

Do I Need Physical Therapy?

Seasoned athletes and couch potatoes alike can suffer from chronic pain, originating from untreated injuries to inactivity. Much like a car, our bodies require regular maintenance and physical therapy functions as a great way to keep the body in peak condition. How do you know physical therapy is the best route for you? Physical therapists can assist with many ailments, including sports injuries, fractures, sprains and other orthopedic conditions. Here are a few more reasons you might benefit from physical therapy:

Chronic Neck Pain and Lower Back Pain – Physical therapists can play a very important role in educating patients and helping alleviate chronic pain by providing targeted spinal support exercises that gradually increase intensity.

• Work-related Injuries – Injuries that occur in the workplace deserve just as much care and attention as sports injuries. Work-related injuries, including repetitive motion injuries, can improve greatly with physical therapy.

Before and After Surgery If you are a surgical candidate, you can enhance your post-surgery recovery by meeting with a physical therapist to learn exercises that will maximize your range of motion. After surgery, therapy can speed up the healing process.

Arthritis – Physical therapy can provide relief for the chronic stiffness, joint pain and lack of mobility associated with arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and even osteoarthritis. Your physical therapist can teach you moves and stretches designed to improve your strength and range of motion so that you can keep up with your daily activities.

Before and After Pregnancy Prenatal and postnatal physical therapy can aid in a successful pregnancy. Also, performing appropriate exercises during pregnancy can contribute to a speedy recovery after giving birth.

What are the Benefits of Physical Therapy?

When it comes to physical therapy, the benefits all depend on the situation. Some benefits of physical therapy include:

• Pain management with reduced need for opioids
• Avoiding surgery
• Improved mobility and movement
• Recovery from injury or trauma
• Recovery from stroke or paralysis
• Fall prevention
• Improved balance
• Management of age-related medical problems

What are the Common Conditions Treated with Physical Therapy?

Physical therapists can treat many different types of conditions, including:

Cardiopulmonary conditions: chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cystic fibrosis (CF) and post-myocardial infarction (MI)

Hand therapy: carpal tunnel syndrome and trigger finger

Musculoskeletal dysfunction: back pain, rotator cuff tears, and temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ)

Neurological conditions: stroke, spinal cord injuries, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, vestibular dysfunction, and traumatic brain injuries

Pediatric conditions: developmental delays, cerebral palsy, and muscular dystrophy

Sports-related injuries: concussion and tennis elbow

How can Physical Therapy Help?

Physical therapy has many benefits for those suffering from a pinched nerve. A physical therapist will work with you to create a program to help your recovery. A professional can help guide you through exercises to strengthen and help heal your nerve. Increasing muscle strength and flexibility will help to support the area around the pinched nerve. However, be careful. Working out alone can worsen your condition. It’s important to have the guidance of a trained medical professional whenever attempting to exercise or stretch with an injury.

Though the patient will see a variety of professionals to help them heal, the physical therapist is the person who’ll mostly be in charge of his or her rehabilitation. There are physical therapists who specialize in just about every joint in the body, and with the help of our orthopedists, the right physical therapist can be teamed with the patient.
Assessing the Patient

The physical therapist will first assess the patient’s injury. He or she will partner with the orthopedist to understand the patient’s injury and go over the patient’s medical history with the physician. The therapist will learn how the injury happened, the outcome of the surgery and the prognosis. With this knowledge, the physical therapist can tailor a treatment plan to the patient’s needs.
The physical therapist uses different scales to test the strength of the patient’s muscles. One of these is the Oxford scale. Its scores range from 0/5, which means that the patient cannot use the affected muscle at all, to 5/5 where the movement of the muscle is largely unimpaired.

Techniques for Recovery
The techniques used by the physical therapist ease the pain of the injury and help the patient regain the mobility, flexibility, and strength that was lost with the injury. Massage therapy can be incorporated to reduce inflammation, stiffness and pain in the injured area. Massage also encourages blood to flow into the area and toxins to drain away from it. Other therapies such as ultrasound, heat, cold and electrotherapy are also used to speed healing. The therapist devises a regime of exercises that grow more and more challenging as the patient recovers from the injury.

New to Physical Therapy? What You Need to Know

Doctors often prescribe physical therapy following any type of surgery that involves the joints or spine. It can also be prescribed before surgical options are considered. The goal, in either case, is to decrease pain and increase the range of motion in the affected joints. Here are a few things you need to know if you are new to physical therapy.

Not Intended to Add to Pain – Many people have the misconception that pushing through the pain is required in order to speed their healing process. This could not be further from the truth. The therapy is a building process that is intended to start small and build up to full range of motion. Individuals should perform any requested exercises but should communicate with the therapist if they encounter any pain during the exercise. In other words, if the therapist asks the patient to lift his or her arm, the patient should lift it as far as possible without pain. Patient strength and range of motion should improve as therapy progresses.

Requires Cooperation Outside the Therapy Center – A physical therapist will show you a list of exercises designed to improve your condition. He or she will demonstrate the proper way to perform each of these exercises during your sessions. However, it is important to set aside time at home, work, or wherever needed to repeat these exercises on your own. Be sure to do them exactly as shown and perform the number of reps suggested by your therapist to maximize results and minimize recovery time.

Maintain Regular Visits to the Therapy Center – Often, a part of the prescribed therapy will include procedures performed directly by the therapist with or without the aid of machines found in the center. These may include massage, traction, machine-aided range of motion exercises and more. The doctor will determine what procedures are needed and how often before prescribing.

How Can Physical Therapy Help After Surgery?

For people who have suffered an orthopedic injury that required surgery to correct, physical therapy can be the difference between returning to the sport or activity that they love without pain or giving that activity up altogether.

Can Physical Therapy Help a Pinched Nerve?

When it comes to pain management, it’s important to know about all of the options that may be available to you. While medication helps to mask the pain, there are other, more effective treatment options. Physical therapy can help alleviate or heal the source of your pain. If you are suffering from pain caused by a pinched nerve, learn why physical therapy may be right for you.

What Is a Pinched Nerve?

Nerves are located all throughout our body and connect to our brains and spinal cords. They send important messages throughout our body about the different things we are touching. For example, when we touch a hot plate, our nerves send out a warning signal in the form of pain saying, “This is hot! Don’t touch this!”

However, if our nerves are damaged, then they send out these warning signals for no reason. We feel pain or numbness in an area of our body for seemingly no reason at all. Mild pinched nerves are bothersome, to say the least. However, severely pinched nerves leave many in crippling pain.

What are the Causes of a Pinched Nerve?

A pinched nerve is caused by increased pressure around the nerve. This may be anything from repetitive motions or when holding a position for a long time. They can happen to almost anyone in any part of the body. Some injuries or trauma may also cause a pinched nerve. While some pinched nerves may go away by themselves, others can turn into very serious conditions. Thousands of individuals seek help for pain caused by a pinched nerve every year.

How do I Make the Most of my Physical Therapy Sessions?

After being referred by a Physician to begin Physical Therapy, you might start developing a lot of questions. What will it be like? Will it hurt? Will it help?

There are many reasons why you might seek physical therapy, whether it be to heal an injury or treat chronic pain, but the primary goal of physical therapy is to recover your mobility. Given the time and effort that goes into physical therapy, it’s important to maximize your sessions so you get the most out of them. The following tips will help you do this:

Arrive Early – Try to get to your appointments a few minutes early so you don’t feel rushed. This will give you a chance to relax following your drive and get yourself into the right mindset for the session.

Wear Something Comfortable – Physical therapy usually requires extensions and movements designed to enhance and extend your range of motion. In addition to any specific items the therapists ask you to wear, such as athletic shoes, make sure you wear something in which you would be comfortable exercising.

Communicate with the Therapist – To get the most out of your physical therapy session, you have to communicate with the therapist, especially if you have any questions or concerns. Also, immediately tell the therapist if you experience any pain.

Make Sure You’re Prepared – It’s important to be prepared for your physical therapy sessions by eating properly and keeping yourself hydrated. Make sure you bring a water bottle along with you to the sessions.

Keep Your Mind on the Therapy – You need to have your mind focused on the therapy session when you’re there, so leave the cell phone at home or turn it off when you’re with your therapist.

What is Physical Therapy Like?

Physical Therapy varies for every patient, but one thing is for sure: your therapist will work with you every step of the way to meet your needs and assist in recovery.
Your physical therapist will begin by reviewing your medical history and performing a physical evaluation. This might seem a little trivial, but it is very important for your therapist to get a good idea on how you and your body works, so he or she can create a therapy plan that better works for you.

You can expect your therapist to evaluate your balance, coordination, posture, strength, and flexibility. Do expect the continuous “how does this hurt?” question while they evaluate you. Therapists want to make recovery as painless as possible.
After assessing your needs, your physical therapist will begin your treatment plan. This plan could include very simple exercises, sometimes so simple that you might begin to question whether or not they are necessary. Even the smallest movements are crucial to your recovery, so it very is important that you trust your therapist.

Physical Therapy, depending on your situation, can include exercises to increase the range of motion, strength, endurance, and mobility. These exercises can improve function and reduce pain.
While pain varies from patient to patient, there is a chance you’ll experience slight pain during treatment, so it is important to maintain open communication you’re your therapist. Remember, patience is key, make time to complete the treatment plan prescribed by your therapist, no shortcuts or cheating!

Why is Physical Therapy Important?

Physical Therapy often plays a vital role in recovery after an injury or illness and can help get you back on track in life. Patients often feel discouraged after having an injury – especially if they live active lives – but just remember that treatment is your doctor’s plan to getting you where you need to be: Back to living life the way you want to.

How can Physical Therapy Help Lower Back Pain?

Lower back pain is a common condition that will occur to most people throughout their lifetime. In fact, studies show that the average individual is at an 80% risk of experiencing back pain between the ages of 45 to 65 – sometimes even as young as 30.
Also known as mechanical back pain, this condition is primarily a sign of aging, when the structure of the spine begins degenerating and becomes more prone to injury from simple actions such as bending or lifting heavy objects. Other causes include:

Excessive strain – Whether you are shoveling snow or participating in your favorite sport, excessive strain can lead to an overstretching and subsequent injury of the muscles and ligaments in your lower back.

Scoliosis – An abnormal curve of the spine that can stem from the poor posture in your teenage years as well as from arthritis that often begins in your late 40’s. This spinal abnormality can cause pain even during normal daily activities.

Sciatica, i.e., herniated disk – When one of the disks that make up your spine is severely worn or damaged, it bulges out towards the spinal cord and can cause severe pain. This can be caused by any strenuous activity that involves lifting, bending, or pulling motions.

Osteoarthritis, i.e., disk degeneration – As you age, the disks that separate your spinal joints may wear away or disintegrate entirely, leading the joints to rub against one another. This can lead to severe pain and potential complications.
While adequate rest or a complete avoidance of strenuous activity is the recommended remedy for minor cases of low back pain, more serious cases will often require care from an orthopedic physician in the form of physical therapy. The main purpose of physical therapy is to restore the natural function of the spine, primarily through hands-on therapy from a licensed expert combined with specialized back exercises that target your distinct needs.

Never dismiss lingering back pain as a normal part of your daily life! If symptoms persist for more than a few days, it could be a sign that you require physical therapy or another form of professional intervention. Please do not hesitate to contact Coastal Orthopedics Sports Medicine & Pain Management and speak with one of our physical therapy specialists in Bradenton and Lakewood Ranch, FL.

Contact Coastal Orthopedics for Physical Therapy Solutions

The road to recovery from an injury can be difficult and long. However, an experienced and trained physical therapist will be able to help you regain your usual mobility as quickly as possible. The tips above will help you get the maximum benefit from your physical therapy sessions. If you have any further questions about the physical therapy process, don’t hesitate to contact us. Coastal Orthopedics offers years of clinical experience, the latest equipment and a courteous staff that is always willing to help you.

Our head of Rehabilitation/ Physical Therapy, Dr. Laura B. Ottaviani, D.O. is a board-certified physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist who focuses on the restoration of her patients’ function. We also have a great team of physical therapists here to help you gain back your quality of life.