What to Expect from Physical Therapy

If you’re like me, you have good intentions when it comes to staying in shape. Recently, I decided to ramp up my regular cardio routine by adding a new sport to the mix: tennis. I signed up for lessons and began playing multiple times a week as practice.

Physical Therapy Unfortunately, I overlooked one of the key elements important to beginning a new fitness regime. While I should have been slowly integrating new activity into my workout routine, I charged full speed ahead into the new sport. I also didn’t listen to my body when I started to experience pain from working too hard. I didn’t slow down, until my body finally made me.

I ended up with an injury that wasn’t serious enough to require surgery but not mild enough to go away with over-the-counter pain relievers  or home remedies. Instead, my doctor recommended rest and six weeks of physical therapy.

What Is Physical Therapy?
Physical therapy is a treatment that can be completed over the course of several weeks or months and that can help you to improve movement and relieve pain. It can be recommended after surgery, following an injury or to help manage a chronic condition.  By completing physical therapy, you’ll likely be able to complete daily tasks with less pain and much more easily. Physical therapy should also give you the building blocks necessary to better manage your injury or condition so that you can continue to improve on your own and avoid further injury.

Do I Need Physical Therapy?
If you’ve recently had a non-urgent injury, it’s a good idea to see your regular doctor or primary care physician (PCP). Your doctor will be able to evaluate you and decide on the best course for treatment.  You may need surgery or you may be able to treat your injury at home.

You should also visit your doctor if you have a chronic condition that impairs your mobility. Your doctor or PCP will first evaluate you to determine if physical therapy is right for you.

My Doctor Prescribed Physical Therapy. Now What?
After your doctor refers you to a physical therapist, your next step is to schedule a visit for an evaluation. This could take place in a doctor’s office or in your own home. During this evaluation, your physical therapist will examine you and develop a plan of care that is specific to your body and needs. Their recommended treatments should help you to restore or improve function, increase your mobility, reduce pain and help prevent disability.

During the course of your treatment, your therapist will also work to reduce swelling in your joints and muscles. This may include massage therapy, heat, cold, ultrasound, and teaching you additional techniques that you can try on your own.

In addition, your therapist will likely use exercise to help you improve. Some excercises you’ll do could include walking, stretching, weight lifting or resistance training. During your exercises, your therapist will be able to monitor your movements within an office setting or in your home and help ensure that you are using the correct technique. After teaching you and ensuring proper technique, they also will likely prescribe exercises for you to do on your own time.

Gym TherapyThese exercises may change throughout your treatment and will likely become a part of your regular post-treatment life. While you should be able to feel the benefits of physical therapy while you are undergoing treatment, one of the goals of physical therapy is to give you the tools to better manage your condition and prevent further injury. In this regard, physical therapy can introduce lifelong changes.

Life after Physical Therapy
After you complete your prescribed therapy sessions, your physical therapist will give you additional instructions to integrate what you’ve learned into your regular life. Some of these instructions will include exercises and stretches to do every day or rules for easing back in to regular activity.

Following your physical therapist’s instructions will help you to get the most out of your physical therapy sessions. For me and my good intentioned fitness, this was an important step in getting back into my workout routine. It can also help prevent against further injury or pain.

For more information, visit the American Physical Therapy Association.

Sources: American Physical therapy Association, Mayo Clinic, WebMD

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