4 Common Misconceptions about Physical Therapy

The definition of Physical Therapy according to Dictionary.com is “the treatment or management of physical disability, malfunction, or pain by exercise, massage, hydrotherapy, etc., without the use of medicines, surgery, or radiation.

This definition is somewhat true and is often how the public may view our profession.  That said, the Physical Therapy profession is much more than just treating disability, malfunction and pain.

Perhaps for a simple definition of Physical Therapy, the American Physical Therapy Association’s description is a little better: Physical therapists are movement experts who improve quality of life through prescribed exercise, hands-on care, and patient education.

With that in mind, here are 4 common misconceptions of physical therapy:

  1. Physical Therapists are for only treating pain, acute injuries or post-operative conditions.
    More accurately Physical Therapists are movement specialists as much as they are pain specialists.  As PT’s we are trained to evaluate and diagnose problems in our movement system that may lead to inefficiencies in our movement that could not only lead to pain but also lead to decreased performance or general function.
  2. Physical Therapists prescribe a standardized set of exercises dependent on your diagnosis.
    Our physical therapists complete a full body examination of your movement system and utilize their findings to create an individualized approach to improving your ability to function with more efficiency and/or less pain.  Treatment sessions most commonly use a combination of hands-on manual therapy and exercise.
  3. A referral or recommendation from a physician is needed for one to go to physical therapy.
    Most insurances do not require a referral to attend PT.  Medicare is the major exception, but there are a few others.  Not sure if PT is right for you: We also offer all Performance Health and Fitness members and athletes at our affiliated schools a free screen to determine the extent of their injury or issue and whether or not they are a candidate for PT.
  4. Pain is abnormal.
    Pain is actually a completely normal sensation and experience.  Pain is a warning sign provided by our nervous system to help us survive and thrive.  Sometimes we experience pain due to an injury or in the presence of noxious stimuli.  Other times we experience pain because we are putting our body in a less than optimal position or even just in a single position for too long.  Persistent or chronic pain can actually be a learned response that becomes more easily triggered by a variety of stresses, some which aren’t physical stimulants, such as emotional stress, fear of injury or chemical changes due to nutrition or decreased circulation, etc.  Physical Therapists are trained to help determine the source and the cause of your pain so that you can learn to avoid the pain or use it as a sign to change your behaviors. As one of my favorite quotes by Benjamin Franklin says, “Things that hurt, instruct.”

As Physical Therapists, we take great pride in helping our clients feel better, move better, and live happier and more productive lives.

Whether recovering from injury, experiencing pain, or just feeling like your movement or function isn’t quite right, we are here to help answer your questions and lead you on a path to a healthier life and improved performance.

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