Physical therapy (sometimes called physiotherapy) is a physical medicine speciality that aims to improve pain management, strength and mobility. It is a common treatment that benefits a range of conditions such as back pain, post-operative pain and whiplash.
The role of a physical therapist is to examine each individual and orchestrate a treatment plan that will be followed over a period of time, both in the clinic and at home. A patient will be taught exercises and techniques that they can practise in between sessions that aim to strengthen and mobilize. It is often used in conjunction with medication or interventional pain treatments such as injections.
Physical therapy is very diverse and can involve deep tissue massage, acupressure, hydrotherapy, stretches and the use of specialist equipment such as exercise balls or bands.
What Is It For?
Physical Therapy can be used to treat a wide range of pain related conditions, such as:
- Post surgery pain
- Neck pain
- Lower and upper back pain
- Pelvic pain
- Post pregnancy pain
- Joint pain
- Foot pain
- Trigger points
- Ligament pain
- Degenerative disc disease
What Does It Involve?
During your first visit with a physical therapist, an extensive medical history will be taken. Your therapist will want to examine you and perform a series of tests to ascertain the nature of your condition or injury. This may involve repeating certain movements or exercises in order to assess your strength, co-ordination, balance, posture and respiration rate.
Your therapist will want to know exactly how your condition affects your day-to-day life, so will ask detailed questions about how you manage at home and any techniques that already work well for you.
Following the thorough assessment, the therapist will put together a customized treatment plan. The nature of this plan will depend entirely on your individual needs. Specialist equipment may be given to you to use, such as a cane, TENS machine, support band or crutches. Your therapist may also introduce other fitness equipment into the sessions such as exercise balls or stretching machines.
Not only will your physical therapy sessions be used to improve your symptoms, but also to educate you on simple daily exercises you can do in your spare time.
Follow-up sessions will be agreed, although the length of time you’ll spend in physical therapy is entirely dependent on the nature of your condition and your general response to the treatment.
What Are The Benefits?
Physical therapy can be a suitable alternative to surgery in many cases. A study published by Annals Of Internal Medicine shows that physical therapy works just as well as surgery for the treatment of lumbar spinal stenosis, however delivers fewer risks and complications, making it a preferable treatment for this condition.
A review published in the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons recommends that patients with lower back pain should consider physical therapy as a first option before more intrusive treatment methods.
Physical therapy offers more than just treatment. It provides an education which can further benefit a patient. A study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine showed that patients undergoing physical therapy who received both treatment and customized advice had a 1.8 times greater chance of improved back pain by 50% or more than the treatment-only group.
Physical therapy has also proven to be just as effective as steroid injections in some shoulder pain cases. A recent study by Leeds University divided 232 patients with severe shoulder pain into two groups. Both groups were given physical therapy, while one group also received subacromial corticosteroid injections. Although the group receiving injections were more improved at weeks one and six, by week 12 both groups had made equal progress.
Physical therapy can be used alongside other pain management techniques and can drastically increase recovery speed and pain levels.
If you would like to hear more about how physical therapy can benefit you, call us now.