Did you know that each year, millions of people are sent to physical therapy due to doctor recommendations? Many first-time patients either dread their initial appointments because they expect to endure intense pain, or they have no clue what to expect, at all. So what exactly do physical therapists do? If you’re anywhere close to being either intimidated or clueless about the services offered by physical therapists, read on.
Physical therapy sessions are generally outpatient visits designed to decrease pain and improve function, mobility, and strength. Patients range from accident and trauma victims to athletes, post-surgical patients, and other people who suffer from chronic bodily pain. The diversity of patient types and needs is only slightly more variegated than the types of intervention that may be employed by a physical therapist.
While other techniques may be used, as well, these three basic types of therapy are part of the repertoire of most physical therapists: manual therapy, therapeutic exercise, and modalities. Manual therapy aims at optimal mobility of muscles, joints, and other tissue structures. The term “manual” means exactly what it implies: You will be touched with the hands of the physical therapist in a manner similar to what is used in deep tissue massage or chiropractic manipulation in order to stretch muscles and mobilize joints.
In addition to manual therapy, therapeutic exercise may also be part of your physical therapy appointment. (A common muscle weakness for those with desk jobs would be weak buttock muscles.) Progress is monitored by progress during specific exercises repeated at appointments, between which home exercise routines—rather than drugs—are prescribed.
Besides manual therapy and therapeutic exercise, modalities are also used in order to relieve acute symptoms. Modalities include ultrasounds, lasers, and electric simulations. Ultrasounds can be used to increase blood flow to spasm-ridden muscles, and electric stimulation can help atrophied muscles to contract more easily.
In addition to performing various interventions during patient appointments and prescribing exercises, physical therapists provide patients with education regarding habitual practices that may lessen the effectiveness of the other forms of care provided. Sometimes, pain can be eliminated simply by a change in posture, work station organization, or unsafe movements. They may recommend more ergonomically designed desk chairs, instruct you about correctly positioned computer monitors and keyboards, or evaluate your choice of shoes.
While you can certainly expect some discomfort to accompany your initial physical therapy session, the aim is never to create pain but to improve your mobility and decrease or eliminate pain. A physical therapist’s job is to work himself or herself out of a job by seeing you no longer require such therapy. Like any caring medical professional, the aim is more than “repeat business” but a healthy patient.
PhysioDC of Washington, D.C.
Daniel Baumstark and his professional team of physical therapists operate a boutique physical therapy office in downtown Washington, D.C. From athletes to government officials, and from ballerinas to corporate executives, PhysioDC helps people recover, strengthen and return to healthy living. Visit their website at www.PhysioDC.com or call them at 202-223-8500.