What Is Physical Therapy?
You’ve been referred to physical therapy (PT) by your doctor. Your friend went to PT for their knee pain. You sprained your ankle, hurt your back, have TMJ pain and was wondering if PT would help. What is this, this PT?
Defined by Google as: “the treatment of disease, injury, or deformity by physical methods such as massage, heat treatment, and exercise rather than by drugs or surgery.”
Defined by Wikipedia as: “Physical therapy, also known as physiotherapy, is one of the allied health professions that, by using mechanical force and movements, manual therapy, exercise therapy, and electrotherapy, remediates impairments and promotes mobility and function.”
Defined by our governing body as: “Physical therapists are movement experts who treat people of all ages and abilities, helping them improve and maintain function and quality of life. Physical therapists create individual treatment plans to match each person’s goals, helping people improve their fitness and function, avoid surgery, reduce the use of opioids and other drugs, and partner in their own care.”
Defined by me as: a branch of physical medicine that concerns the human body, its’ movement, and the systems that control movement. What?? Okay, what are the systems that control movement? The skeletal, muscular, and the nervous systems; these combined, control movement within the constraints of the environment. All good and well, but does that tell you what a physical therapist does?
A physical therapist evaluates an individual’s posture, movement, joint range of motion, muscular strengths, muscular lengths, coordination and balance to determine qualities and quantities of these and contributing factors to their functioning. This may or may not lead to determining a rehab diagnosis (eg. patellar tendinitis, muscle strain, shoulder impingement, etc), impairments (a tight or weak muscle, joint laxity, joint tightness, etc.), or imbalances which the PT then may intervene on to improve. Interventions may include but are not limited to: education, exercise, muscular work, and, joint mobilization/manipulation.
What do I like about the internet’s definition of PT? I love that they mention improving function, improving quality of life, and that we can help individuals of all ages and abilities to help reach their goals. And I love, LOVE, that it is out there that we can help individuals avoid the use of opioids and surgery! I am obviously biased. And at no point, am I saying that either of those don’t have their time and place. Another point I really like about the American Physical Therapy Association definition is that it is mentioned that they partner in their own care. This is huge! What I love most about it, is that it enables the individual to use their cognitive and physical abilities to help manage their pain, function, and quality of life rather then something outside of them. It pushes care and the ability to help themselves back onto the individual and that is extremely powerful!
As always, I hope this helps! If you have any questions or would like to read about certain topics, send us an email at TeamSP@SportsPerformancePT.com.
-Dr. Nick Schroeder, PT, DPT
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