Who Benefits From Physical Therapy?

Myth: Physical therapy is only for people who are experiencing pain. 

Answer: FALSE- Physical therapy can be beneficial to people experiencing a wide variety of conditions. While we do treat a lot of people that have some sort of pain, we can also help those who are not in pain but still limited in their ability to move and get around. Some of these conditions are listed below. Physical therapists are considered “movement experts” and are well equipped to help you reach your movement goals and achieve a higher quality of life. 

  • Muscle weakness due to aging or chronic neurological conditions – Physical therapists will help develop a program that promotes recruitment and strengthening of weakened muscle areas to help make day to day life both easier and safer. 
  • Injury prevention – Some patients come to physical therapy because they are prone to injury and want to take the necessary steps to avoid injury prior to starting a new exercise routine.
  • Walking abnormalities – Whether due to a genetic abnormality or acquired from a certain illness or injury, physical therapists analyze how you walk and work to improve your walking to be more safe and efficient. 
  • Decreased balance/stability -A physical therapist helps to decrease your risk of falling by improving your balance and stability through prescribed exercises.
  • Deconditioning – This is commonly seen in physical therapy and can be due to a variety of reasons (aging, prolonged hospital stays, chronic injury, etc). A physical therapist will evaluate you and determine and create an exercise plan to improve your muscle strength and endurance.

Can I Exercise While I am Pregnant?

A simple answer is yes, exercising while pregnant can be very beneficial to expecting mothers. There are certain instances, such as high risk pregnancies, where your doctor will likely tell you to avoid non-essential physical activity, but for most pregnant women it is recommended. Below are some guidelines and tips on how to exercise safely while you are expecting. 

  • Talk with your doctor – make sure you are aware of any restrictions or guidelines your OB-GYN wants you to follow. 
  • Pre-pregnancy activity levels should equal pregnancy activity levels – being pregnant is not the time to go from couch to 5k if you were sedentary previously. Performing very strenuous exercise such as running a marathon or playing contact sports is not recommended. If you are unsure, always contact your physician.
  • Adjust as necessary – as your body changes, your physical activity may also change; be sure to listen to your body and make good/safe choices. 
  • Avoid exercising on your back – as the baby grows, it can place more pressure on major blood vessels if you exercise on your back for a prolonged period of time.
  • Avoid excessive stretching – to help with the birthing process, a woman’s body produces hormones that increase the flexibility of your ligaments. This is something to be aware of while exercising since it puts you at a slightly higher risk of injury.
  • Remember to breathe – while it is always important to breathe throughout an exercise, it is particularly important while exercising when expecting. Holding your breath causes increased pressure in your abdominal cavity and can decrease the amount of oxygen being brought to the placenta

When To Get Imaging For an Injury?

Maryland is a direct access state for physical therapy. This means that you do not have to see a physician before receiving physical therapy unless your health insurance requires it. As physical therapists, we are trained to be able to determine whether your presentation requires you to also consult with a physician. One of the reasons a physical therapist might refer you to a physician is for you to receive imaging. A physical therapist would suggest this if we feel your injury might have resulted in some type of fracture or tear to a ligament, tendon, or muscle. The only way to determine if this actually happened is through imaging. Your physician will then let you know the results of the imaging and their recommendation for a further plan of care.

Even if you did sustain a fracture or tear, that does not mean surgery is the only option. Depending on the severity of the injury, your physician will recommend your options and many times it is continued physical therapy without a surgical intervention. As physical therapists, we have vast experience with working with patient with positive imaging outcomes that have successful results with only physical therapy. Therefore, it is important to listen to all your health care providers to determine the right course for your treatment.

How to Decrease Lower Back Pain

Many people suffer from lower back pain. Back pain is so common as the majority of activities we perform throughout our day involve activation of the lower back muscles. Back pain can be caused by poor posture, lack of core strength, improper lifting technique, and muscle weakness. Most of the time, physical therapy can help to decrease your lower back pain and get you back to your daily activities. However, if your back pain is too severe and physical therapy does not seem to help, the next step is to consult with an orthopedic surgeon who will most likely refer you for imaging to determine if there is an underlying condition at your spine causing the majority of your back pain. A physical therapist will help you to be able to navigate your treatment path to achieve the most optimal result.

Benefits of Physical Therapy for Arthritis

Physical Therapy is a great option for patients with arthritis. Physical Therapists will evaluate your joints that are affected by arthritis to determine your baseline level of motion and strength. Physical Therapy will help to ease your symptoms associated with arthritis by improving your strength and stability through prescribed exercises. With increased muscle strength supporting your joints, it will decrease joint stress and improve overall function. Physical therapist might also recommend certain modalities along with exercises to help decrease your discomfort. Examples of these modalities are heat, massage, and electrical stimulation. The most common joints that are affected by arthritis are the hands, knees, hip, and spine. The good news is all these joints can benefit from physical therapy.