Physical Therapy in a Nutshell and Why It Works

When we think of physical therapy, we usually imagine exercise, stretching, massage, and rehabilitation sessions. And that would all be true. Nevertheless, this field of restorative health is far greater than we can fathom. Anyone struggling with a condition or disease that affects their body mobility, internal or external, can rely on physical therapy for effective treatment. 

In the following guide, we take a look at what physical therapy is, what it treats, and why it works.

Physical Therapy Defined

Generally speaking, physical therapy (PT) is a branch of rehabilitative health that helps patients improve or regain optimal physical condition. Using a wide array of techniques, exercises, and special equipment, the patient will slowly be reacquainted with full and painless mobility. Notably, people who have undergone an accident, trauma, or injury reap the most benefits from PT sessions, as well as those impacted by a disability, chronic disease, or condition in their daily lives. Licenced physical therapists accompany the patient throughout all stages of the healing process, from initial diagnosis to post-recovery. PT is typically used in conjunction with other types of treatments, but can also work as a standalone option.

What Does it Treat?

Physical therapy is used to treat an extensive host of issues related to abnormal physical function. For instance, athletes who’ve suffered a severe sports-related injury often choose PT sessions to get in shape again. Someone suffering from musculoskeletal dysfunction like chronic back pain, rotator cuff tears, etc., can also greatly benefit from seeing a physical therapist. Likewise, physical therapist Jessica Dietz, DPT, NCS clarifies that those struggling with BPPV (Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo),-which is one of many neurological ailments- are bound to find a specialized rehabilitation center that will help them overcome their condition. Patients with cardiopulmonar and pediatric conditions, including cystitis fibrosis and muscular dystrophy, have also recovered wonderfully with PT.

Types of Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is broken into 5 main categories of treatment. Each specialty covers a different area of the body or targets a specific group of individuals. The classification typically goes as follows:

Pediatric PT

focuses on physical problems in infants, childrens, and adolescents, such as birth defects, development delays, or genetic disorders (e.g. cerebral palsy).

Geriatric PT 

specializes in treating conditions related to the eldery. This area touches upon Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease, arthritis, osteoporosis, cancer, etc.

Orthopedic PT

focuses on the musculoskeletal system, including bones, joints, ligaments, and tendons.

Cardiopulmonary PT

aims to treat cardiovascular or pulmonary conditions such as heart attacks, pulmonary fibrosis, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Neurological PT

deals with neurological disorders that affect mobility such as strokes, brain and spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, etc. It is worth noting that Vestibular rehabilitation and Women’s health are two emerging subspecialties of PT that are growing in popularity worldwide.

Benefits of Physical Therapy

The benefits of PT are numerous. In general, physical therapy aims to allow patients to recover and/or improve their mobility and capacity for movement. For many, this often entails better pain management, a gain in independence, and an overall better quality of life. Likewise, PT helps people recover from injuries, strokes, paralysis and other forms of physical trauma. It works because each condition or ailment has its solution, which is then tailored to suit the patient for swift progress and an optimal recovery. PT can also be an effective prophylaxis against future aches and pains, or work as an alternative to invasive and costly surgeries — which would explain why more and more people are training to become specialized physical therapists (around 4 to 6 years of intensive training in college).

Where is it Practiced?

The short answer is: Pretty much anywhere you can think of. PT has set up shop in hospitals, outpatient clinics, skilled nursing facilities, independent practices, rehabilitation centers, but also in schools, universities, in workplace environments, or in fitness and sports facilities. Nowadays, it is not uncommon to find PT practices in private homes. With around 175,000 practicing physical therapists according to the American Association for Physical Therapy, you could say that it is a very attractive and promising field.

All things considered, it’s fair to assume that physical therapy can be considered the mother of natural remedies. Whether you were involved in a motorcycle accident, have suffered a stroke, or struggle from an innate condition and have lost your mobility, partly or entirely, following PT sessions can work great to relieve pain and enable you to enjoy full mobility once again. It works on all parts of the body, for both young and old patients, so you can safely rely on it to reacquaint your body with its optimal form!


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