A physical therapist, or PT, is a healthcare professional who focuses on the science of movement. PTs work with patients throughout the lifespan who face injuries or illnesses that limit their functional movement. Physical therapy is a dynamic and ever-evolving profession that uses research-based scientific theory to restore, maintain, and promote optimal physical functioning.
Phases of Physical Therapy
Physical therapy begins with a thorough examination and evaluation. Depending on your unique situation, your physical therapist might ask you to walk, bend, or stretch in specific ways. He or she will assess your health history and current condition, and note the ways in which your movement is limited. Based on the results of this evaluation, your physical therapist will work with you to develop a personalized treatment plan.
Following the initial evaluation, physical therapy can be divided into three basic phases:
Phase one is the acute phase. At this time, your PT will focus on controlling pain and inflammation, and helping your body heal itself. You will learn to care for yourself using the PRICE method (Prevention-Rest-Ice-Elevation), giving your body the opportunity to rejuvenate while minimizing the risk of further injuring yourself.
The second, or subacute, phase is based on research that demonstrates that you must get back to moving while reducing the chances of reinjury. This phase uses careful, controlled movements to reduce pain and improve your range of motion. Your physical therapist will guide you through both in-office and at-home stretches and strengthening exercises that are tailored to your unique needs.
Finally, the third phase is the chronic phase. It focuses on progressive movement towards your full pre-injury state of fitness. By this time, you are at minimal risk of further injury, as your initial injury is mostly healed. However, your body has been through trauma, and must be gradually brought back to full fitness. Your physical therapist will also identify any functional issues that might have led to your injury, such as structural problems or weak muscles, and work with you to correct those issues.
Conditions Requiring Physical Therapy
Physical therapists are well equipped to participate in the treatment of a wide range of physical conditions. Here are just a few:
Heart Attack Recovery
Sports Injury Prevention
Car Accident Rehabilitation
Knee Surgery Recovery
Lower Back Pain Treatment
Shoulder Injury Recovery
Repetitive Use Injury Prevention and Treatment
Chronic Pain Condition Rehabilitation
In short, physical therapists can assist with treating any injury or illness that causes physical pain and/or limits your range of motion. Physical therapists often work with other medical professionals including, but not limited to, pain management doctors, surgeons, general physicians, and occupational therapists. Because physical therapy is intensely tailored to the individual patient’s needs, it can be equally appropriate for infants and nursing home residents, athletes and those suffering from debilitating arthritis.
Should I See a Physical Therapist?
If you feel that a particular part of your body is not functioning as well as it should, if you suffer from chronic pain, or if you are in recovery from a known illness or injury, it is worth asking your doctor whether physical therapy is right for you. It is covered by most health insurance plans when deemed medically necessary, and can help to limit pain while ensuring that your body is working as well as possible. While no medical treatment is right for everyone, physical therapy can be a valuable resource for many people.
If you are in the market for a customized, innovative approach to physical therapy, please call Raritan Physical Therapy at (732) 662-4400 to schedule your initial assessment.