5 Misconceptions of Physical Therapy

Setting the record straight about physical therapy

Have you ever felt a need to visit a physical therapist? Maybe you know someone who has had physical therapy--or someone who might benefit from therapy? Maybe you're just not sure how physical therapy can help. There can be some very common misconceptions about physical therapy that keep people from accessing care. It's not surprising the public might not understand how physical therapy can help--we haven't done our part to educate the public about the scope of what physical therapy can do. If you've had a good experience with physical therapy, you know that it can have an amazing transformative effect that can help people of all ages.

I'd like to set the record straight about some of the favorite myths that surround physical therapy. Hopefully I can answer some of the questions you currently have, and help you feel more comfortable about seeking treatment.

1. Physical Therapy is Always Painful : False! It's very common for people to think that physical therapy might be painful. I think this sometimes relates to our erroneous belief system: it has to hurt to help. Well, not really. I feel very strongly that pain can be a strong deterrent to successful movement. If a patient comes to us with pain (and most do), we make every effort to decrease pain through therapy, as quickly as possible. The aim of a physical therapist is to minimize/relieve your pain and discomfort. We then work to restore movement and function. The therapist will evaluate you so that a baseline can be set. Then the therapist will choose which treatment strategies are best used at that time. There is no one way to treat--each person brings unique needs, and your therapist will choose which strategies seem to make the most sense. There are many new treatment techniques that be can used to help your body heal while keeping your pain level as low as possible. In the past we had only techniques that minimized pain at best, but we now have some exciting new options that relieve pain--even for problems we have thought had no real pain relief solutions i.e. Chronic Headache, Chronic Pain Fibromyalgia, in sight.

2. You have to see the physical therapist you are referred to: False! You have the right to go where you want to for physical therapy treatment. Not all clinics have staff that meets your specialty requirements, so to have the most success with your therapy, you should find a clinic that best fits your needs. Do a little research. Then check with the clinic of your choice if you have questions. Most clinics will help you navigate through the process of getting a referral if it is required by your insurance company. One quick way to find out if it is required is to call the number for member benefits on your card.

3. Physical Therapy is only for injuries or accidents: False! There are a lot of people who associate physical therapy only with stretching or strengthening muscles after injuries or surgery. As experts in the way the body moves, physical therapists can help following auto accidents; we can help relieve not just manage chronic pain from Headaches, Fibromyalgia, and work injuries. You might be surprised to know that physical therapy can be helpful in treating those who have anxiety and difficulty sleeping. Do you know someone that might have designed

their own exercise program only to injure themselves? A physical therapist can work with you to create an customized (not cook book) exercise program to help you achieve your goals. You might be even more surprised to learn that many physical therapists are trained in Pilates, and if Pilates is part of your therapy program, it is reimbursable by your insurance (as any exercise is while under a physical therapists care). Who Knew?

4. I Can Do Physical Therapy Myself: False! Participating in your treatment plan is very important to your success, so I applaud anyone who moves forward to improve their health. However, consider that you may have better results if you seek the guidance and skill of a physical therapist trained to evaluate your body's limitations and build a safe and effective plan for you. It is important to have a plan that will help you succeed. So get started on the right foot, minimize the chance of injury, and maximize your success!

5. All Physical Therapy Clinics are the Same: False! Although we all start out with the same training in school, after practicing awhile, most therapists find an area of interest or specialty. If you have found physical therapy to not be helpful in the past, this doesn’t mean you will never find another clinic that can help you. Physical therapy clinics can vary greatly depending on the clinic/therapist specialties, the time spent with each patient, the type of treatments used, therapist consistency, and individualized care. Don’t be afraid to do some research on clinics in your area and ask questions to make sure they have the type of care you are looking for.