It’s not uncommon to experience annoying aches and pains here and there – sometimes these are simply our body’s way of telling us to take care of ourselves, get more rest or keep an eye on a certain body part. But sometimes pain signals a more chronic or lingering issue that needs to be healed or strengthened by a physical therapist.
In fact, pain isn’t the only thing that can indicate an issue that a physical therapist can solve. There are many other issues and complaints that a physical therapist is most equipped to fix. So what does a physical therapist do and how do you know if they could solve your current health concerns?
The truth is, most people could benefit from physical therapy, even if your body is feeling great. Physical therapy helps keep our muscles and joints healthy and strong, which in turn helps us move and live more safely and efficiently. They can also help you prevent future pain or injuries. But if you’re wondering if physical therapy can help you out with a specific pain or ailment, here’s a little guidance.
Pain along the spinal column
Your spinal column, which starts at the top of your neck and stretches all the way down to your tailbone, is one of the most important parts of your body and is extremely important to maintaining your mobility.
Sports, injury, sleeping in a funny position, or even twisting the wrong way can put strain anywhere along your spinal column and cause pain and discomfort. Neck and lower back pain are two of the most common complaints. Physical therapists can help with any of these things, and can even recommend different stretches and exercises you can do at home to minimize pain and speed along your healing process.
Preparing for or recovering from surgery/medical treatment
If you’ve ever broken a bone and had to undergo surgery, you’ll probably remember having to visit a physical therapist for a while. Physical therapists help you get your strength back and slowly begin going normal movements until the injured part of your body is able to function as well as it did before you were hurt.
But fractures aren’t the only reason you might be referred to a physical therapist after a procedure, surgery or set of treatments. Physical therapists are an incredibly important part of the recovery process for recovering cancer patients or those who are working to recover from a stroke, cardiac emergency or spinal cord or head injury.
If you’re recovering from something like this, your doctor will likely recommend you visit the therapist for a certain number of weeks/months until you get better. However, if your issues flare up again or return down the line, visit your physical therapist as much as you feel you need to.
Preventing injury from physical activity
If you exercise frequently and heavily, play sports or are looking to begin a new workout regime, it’s a good idea to visit a physical therapist every once in a while, even if you don’t have any existing injuries. Physical therapists can teach you stretches and exercises that you can do at home to prevent any injuries and keep your muscles and joints strong enough to handle the amount of pressure your physical activities are putting on them.
They can also give you tips for keeping your bones healthy and strong and can help make sure you don’t have any pre-existing issues that may cause pain for you down the line.
Problems with balance or mobility
If you’re having a significantly hard time balancing and/or doing movements that would otherwise be simple, your doctor may refer you to a physical therapist.
Our ability to keep our balance comes from three main systems in the body: our visual system, our vestibular system (in our inner ear) and our proprioceptive system, which is found throughout our muscles and joints. A physical therapist can assess all three of these systems and determine which factors could be contributing to your balance issues. They will then prescribe specific exercises that will restore your balance over time.
Bowel or bladder incontinence
Though physical therapy may not be top of mind for those experiencing incontinence issues, the pelvic floor muscles that are often the cause of these issues can be strengthened through physical therapy.
Your physical therapist will assess the muscles in your pelvis, hip and lower back and create an individualized treatment plan to help you gain control over your symptoms and reduce the need for special undergarments, surgery or medicine. Treatments may include Kegels, biofeedback, muscle strengthening exercises or electrical stimulation.
Chronic fatigue and weakness
Whether or not you’ve been officially diagnosed with a condition such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, a physical therapist can help you get your strength and energy back. Pain and weakness can be exacerbated by excessive fatigue, and a physical therapist can work with you to practice movements that will improve your short-term endurance and strength. They can also offer advice for conserving your energy and try manual (hands-on) therapy to help reduce pain and improve movement.
This list isn’t exhaustive; from wrist and ankle problems to wound care and much more, physical therapy can improve your quality of life and help you do the activities you love with more endurance, less pain, and more freedom.
Want to learn more about physical therapy and how it can benefit you? Speak with a doctor at Valleywise Health to learn more about our physical therapy services. Book your appointment at ValleywiseHealth.org or call 1 (833) VLLYWSE.