Physical therapy: What is it good for?

You’ve heard of physical therapy. Maybe you’ve even known someone who saw a physical therapist for a while. But have you ever thought about what it actually does?

Well, the answer is pretty much what you might expect. Physical therapy helps people recover or gain physical abilities that have either diminished or were impacted by a medical condition.

But while the basic definition is simple, physical therapy has a ton of benefits and many different capabilities. Let’s take a deeper dive into the topic.

Who is physical therapy for?

Anyone may require or benefit from a physical therapist’s care at some point. This type of therapy is used to help patients for a variety of reasons, including recovery after a serious illness, physical impairment of some sort, a medical condition that causes limitations with mobility or function, and even sports injuries.

Many times, physical therapists offer specialty care for a subset of patients, such as the elderly, pediatric patients or athletes. This offers patients highly individualized care and knowledge into their specific needs.

Anytime your mobility (ability to walk or move) is negatively affected, you can benefit from seeing a physical therapist. Beyond that, physical therapists can also help patients prevent injury or limit the loss of function through specially targeted exercises.

What does physical therapy involve?

When you first begin physical therapy, the therapist’s first step is to evaluate and assess your abilities. This will typically involve an assessment of:

  • Range of motion
  • Flexibility
  • Joint mobility (how well you can move your joints)
  • Pain level
  • Strength
  • Functional mobility (overall ability to move)

Because many patients are experiencing diminished abilities because of a medical condition, your therapist will also review basics like neurological, cardiac and pulmonary function to ensure that you’re healthy enough to complete physical therapy exercises. This information will also guide the therapist as he or she decides what strategy will work best for your specific needs.

Based on this initial evaluation, your therapist will formulate a rehab plan for you, designed to help you regain abilities or limit further decline. This plan is not set in stone — as you meet goals, the goals will be redefined.

Physical therapy may include a variety of therapies, including manual therapy specific exercises, heat, ice, ultrasound and electrical stimulation. During the course of your rehab, your therapist will likely walk you through exercises to perform during sessions as well as assign exercises to do at home to continue improving.

How does physical therapy help?

Working with a physical therapist can benefit patients in a number of ways. This varies from person to person depending on individual needs, but in general may include:

  • Pain management
  • Improved ability to move and walk
  • Fall prevention
  • Improved balance

Thanks to these benefits, physical therapy can help patients avoid surgery, recover after an injury or surgery, and recover abilities after a stroke or other paralysis. In addition, for older adults feeling the effects of aging, physical therapy has been shown to help slow down the normal age-related issues with mobility, balance and walking.

With three convenient locations, we offer access to world-class physical therapists who are certified in a broad range of specialties. If you believe you could benefit from working with a physical therapist, talk with your doctor or learn more about physical therapy services at Erlanger here.