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You and others may be referred to physical therapy because of a movement dysfunction associated with pain. Your difficulty with moving part(s) of your body (like bending at the low back or difficulty sleeping on your shoulder, etc.) very likely results in limitations with your daily activities (e.g., difficulty getting out of a chair, an inability to play sports, or trouble with walking, etc.). Physical therapists treat these movement dysfunctions and their associated pains and restore your body's ability to move in a normal manner.
More than half of all Americans are suffering from pain. Whether it is a recent episode or chronic, an ABC News/Stanford study revealed that pain in America is a serious problem. However, many do not even know that physical therapists are well equipped to not only treat pain but also its source.
Physical therapists are experts at treating movement and neuro-musculoskeletal disorders. Pain often accompanies a movement disorder, and physical therapists can help correct the disorder and relieve the pain.
In most cases, you have the right to choose any physical therapy clinic. Our practice is a provider for many different insurance plans. The best thing to do is give us a call and we will attempt to answer all of your questions.
These are some things you may consider when seeking a physical therapy clinic:
- Board certified therapists.
- Care should include a variety of techniques which might include hands-on techniques, soft tissue work, therapeutic exercises and in some cases heat, cold, electrical stimulation or ultrasound.
- Do they take your insurance or are they willing to work with you if they are not a preferred provider?
- They should be conveniently located. Since sitting and driving often aggravate orthopedic problems, there should be a very good reason for you to drive a long distance for rehabilitation.
- What are the hours of operation?
- Can they provide patient satisfaction survey results? Are they a longstanding company with a good reputation?
- Ask your family, friends and physician who they would recommend.
The first visit should include a thorough medical history and physical examination before any treatment is rendered.
You should wear loose fitting clothing so you can expose the area that we will be evaluating and treating. For example, if you have a knee problem, it is best to wear shorts. For a shoulder problem, a tank top is a good choice, and for low back problems, wear a loose fitting shirt and pants, again so we can perform a thorough examination.
Treatment sessions typically last 30 to 90 minutes per visit.
If your insurance is covering the cost of physical therapy, bring your insurance card. If you are covered by Workers' Compensation, bring your claim number and your case manager's contact information. If your therapy is covered by auto insurance or an attorney lien, make sure you bring this information.
Your payment requirement will depend upon your insurance carrier, copayment requirement and deductible. We will be happy to contact your insurance company and let you know what your benefits cover.
This is highly variable. You may need one visit or you may need months of care. It depends on your diagnosis, the severity of your impairments, your past medical history, etc. You will be re-evaluated on a monthly basis and when you see your doctor, we will provide you with a progress report with our recommendations.
Many people are familiar with physical therapists' work helping patients with orthopedic problems, such as low back pain or knee surgeries, to reduce pain and regain function. Others may be aware of the treatment that physical therapists provide to assist patients recovering from a stroke (e.g., assisting them with recovering use of their limbs and walking again).
The ability to maintain an upright posture and to move your arms and legs to perform all sorts of tasks and activities is an important component of your health. Most of us can learn to live with the various medical conditions that we may develop, but only if we are able to continue at our jobs, take care of our families, and enjoy important occasions with family and friends. All of these activities require the ability to move without difficulty or pain.
Because physical therapists are experts in movement and function, they do not confine their talents to treating people who are ill. A large part of a physical therapist's program is directed at preventing injury, loss of movement, and even surgery. Physical therapists work as consultants in industrial settings to improve the design of the workplace and reduce the risk of workers overusing certain muscles or developing low back pain. They also provide services to athletes at all levels to screen for potential problems and institute preventive exercise programs. With the boom in the golf and fitness industries, a number of physical therapists are engaged in consulting with recreational golfers and fitness clubs to develop workouts that are safe and effective, especially for people who already know that they have a problem with their joints or their backs.
The cornerstones of physical therapy treatment are therapeutic exercise and functional training. In addition to "hands-on" care, physical therapists also educate patients to take care of themselves and to perform certain exercises on their own. Depending on the particular needs of a patient, physical therapists may also "mobilize" a joint (that is, perform certain types of movements at the end of your range of motion) or massage a muscle to promote proper movement and function. Physical therapists also use methods such as ultrasound (which uses high frequency waves to produce heat), hot packs, and ice. Although other kinds of practitioners will offer some of these treatments as "physical therapy," it's important for you to know that physical therapy can only be provided by qualified physical therapists or by physical therapist assistants, who must complete a 2-year education program and who work only under the direction and supervision of physical therapists.
Most forms of physical therapy treatment are covered by your insurance, but the coverage will vary with each plan. Most states do not legally require patients to see their physicians before seeing a physical therapist. Most of the time all you have to do is ask your doctor if physical therapy is right for you.
Many suffer from dizziness or BPPV (benign paroxysmal positional vertigo). Some clinics specialize in the rehabilitation of patients with vertigo. Patient education, strengthening, safety awareness, posture and balance exercise, walking exercise, and special techniques that affect sensory and balance centers of the brain and limbs are all important components of a rehabilitation program.
Physical therapists are well trained to help with your fitness needs and wellness programs. If you need an exercise program, have trouble with your weight, are concerned about osteoporosis, have an issue with diabetes, or you would like to learn how to prevent falls, physical therapists can help. The previous examples are just a few of the many programs physical therapists offer.
Some therapists specialize in the rehabilitation of seniors. As the body ages, a variety of challenges arise. We stiffen, we lose strength, our balance skills decline, our bones become brittle (osteoporosis), our endurance decreases, and we take longer to recover from injuries. Balance and fall prevention are of paramount importance to the therapist who is working with seniors and some clinics are solely dedicated to caring for those with balance problems. Most physical therapists work with seniors/geriatric patients. Some have obtained additional education, have passed a board examination, and have earned the Geriatric Certified Specialist (GCS) title.
Most physical therapists are well trained to treat hand and wrist conditions. Some therapists have taken additional courses and training and have passed a hand therapy certification examination. These therapists are called Certified Hand Therapists (CHTs).
Specialists in industrial rehabilitation help with those that have suffered on-the-job injuries. Moreover, they will evaluate work tasks, fabricate assistive devices, evaluate your ergonomic situation, and help redesign work flow/tasks to decrease the incidence of injury. Often, industrial rehabilitation specialists will evaluate your ability to perform certain job tasks with a Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCE).
We take it for granted but a special component of the circulatory system, the lymph system, helps filter and drain fluid from our arms and legs. When this drainage system is damaged, painful swelling can result. Some therapists specialize in the treatment of lymphedema as it is called. Special positioning, massage and bandaging techniques are utilized by the lymphedema specialist.
Manual therapy is a broad term that describes a variety of hands-on treatment techniques that are applied to movement dysfunctions. Grade five mobilizations, Mulligan mobilizations with movement, Maitland and Kaltenborn techniques, functional technique, neural mobilization, joint mobilization, craniosacral therapy, strain/counter strain, myofascial release, etc. These are some of the more popular manual therapy techniques. Many manual therapists will take continuing education courses, obtain certifications in manual therapy, and will sit for board certification from the American Physical Therapy Association and other organizations. Most physical therapists incorporate manual therapy techniques as a part of a complete treatment plan.
Probably the most common physical therapy specialist is the orthopedic specialist. These specialists care for post-surgical patients, arthritis, tendinitis/tendinosus, fracture rehabilitation, muscle sprains and strains, neck and back pain, hip and knee problems, shoulder, elbow, and wrist conditions. Some are board certified as Orthopedic Certified Specialists (OCS).
Some practitioners specialize in the evaluation and treatment of osteoporosis patients. Working in concert with your medical doctor, the therapist will often design a specialized weight bearing and resistance training program for those with this silent disease.
Experts in assisting with recovery after injury and surgery. Many sports specialists help with retraining the athlete utilizing running, throwing, jumping, and sport-specific programs to name a few. A therapist with the Sports Certified Specialist (SCS) title has passed a board certified test.
In some cases, physical therapy techniques can be painful. It is important that you communicate the intensity, frequency, and duration of pain to your therapist. Without this information, it is difficult for the therapist to adjust your treatment plan.
There are dozens of different types of treatment interventions. Here is a list of treatment interventions:
The patient lifts or moves a body part through range of motion against gravity. AROM is usually one of the first modalities prescribed for arthritis.
Therapist-assisted active range of motion. This is usually prescribed for gentle stretching or strengthening for a very weak body part.
ART (Active Release Technique) is a patented, state-of-the-art soft tissue system/movement based massage technique that treats problems with muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia and nerves. Headaches, back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, shin splints, shoulder pain, sciatica, plantar fasciitis, knee problems, and tennis elbow are just a few of the many conditions that can be resolved quickly and permanently with ART. These conditions all have one important thing in common: they are often a result of overused muscles.
ASTYM (A-stim) treatment is a rehabilitation program that stimulates the regenerative healing process of the body. This approach is a non-invasive therapy that works fast and consistently. The ASTYM system rejuvenates muscles, tendons and ligaments. It gets rid of scar tissue problems from old injuries in a fashion previously unimaginable.
Cryotherapy or Cold Therapy is used to cause vasoconstriction (the blood vessels constrict or decrease their diameter) to reduce the amount of fluid that leaks out of the capillaries into the tissue spaces (swelling) in response to injury of tissue. Ice or cold is used most frequently in acute injuries, but also an effective pain reliever for even the most chronic pain.
Gait or Walking Training is the analysis of walking problems by visually examining the interaction of the low back and the joints of the thighs, legs, and feet during the various stages of walking, including initial contact, loading response, mid stance, terminal stance, pre swing, mid swing, and terminal swing. Many back, thigh, leg, ankle, and foot problems may be caused by or manifest themselves in subtle gait abnormalities.
Heat is recommended to decrease chronic pain, relax muscles, and for pain relief. It should not be used with an acute or "new" injury.
Medications are propelled through the skin by an electrical charge. This modality works on the physical concept that like charges repel each other, therefore, a positively charged medication will be repelled through the skin to the underlying tissues by the positively charged pad of an iontophoresis machine. Iontophoresis is usually prescribed for injuries such as shoulder or elbow bursitis.
Isometrics is muscle contraction without joint movement. This is usually prescribed for strengthening without stressing or damaging the joint (e.g., arthritis, or exercises to be performed in a cast, or right after surgery if recommended by the therapist/doctor).
Isotonics is muscle(s) contracting through the ROM with resistance. This is usually prescribed for strengthening.
Mobilization consists of hands-on therapeutic procedures intended to increase soft tissue or joint mobility. Mobilization is usually prescribed to increase mobility, delaying progressive stiffness, and to relieve pain. There are many types of mobilization techniques including Maitland, Kaltenborn, Isometric Mobilizations, etc.
Neck traction is a gentle longitudinal/axial pull on the neck, either manual or mechanical, intermittent or continuous for relief of neck pain, to decrease muscle spasm and facilitate unloading of the spine.
Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation (NMES) is - the application of electrical stimulation to aid in improving strength (e.g., the quadriceps muscle after knee surgery or injury). NMES is also used to decrease pain and swelling and to relieve muscle spasm.
The patient or therapist moves the body part through a range of motion without the use of the muscles that "actively" move the joint(s).
Pelvic traction is the longitudinal/axial pull on the lumbar spine, either manual or mechanical, intermittent or continuous. Pelvic traction may be helpful for the relief of low back pain and muscle spasm.
Posture Training is instruction in the correct biomechanical alignment of the body to reduce undue strain on muscles, joints, ligaments, discs, and other soft tissues. There is an ideal posture, but most people do not have ideal posture. Therapists educate patients about the importance of improving posture with daily activities. Stretching and strengthening exercises may be prescribed to facilitate postural improvement and to prevent further disability and future recurrences of problems.
Progressive Resistive Exercises (PRE) are exercises that gradually increase in resistance (weights) and in repetitions. PRE is usually prescribed for reeducation of muscles and strengthening. Weights, rubber bands, and body weight can be used as resistance.
Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) is a system of manually resisted exercises performed in diagonal patterns that mimic functional movements. PNF was initially used in developmentally and neurologically impaired patients but now is used in almost every aspect of neuromuscular retraining from athletes in sports facilities to the very weak in hospitals and nursing homes.
Soft tissue mobilization is therapeutic massage of body tissue performed with the hands. Soft tissue mobilization may be used for muscle relaxation, to decrease swelling, to decrease scar tissue adhesions, and for pain relief.
This is usually prescribed for improving the strength and/or range of motion of the back or lower extremities as well as cardiovascular endurance.
Stretching/flexibility exercise is designed to lengthen muscle(s) or soft tissue. Stretching exercises are usually prescribed to improve the flexibility of muscles that have tightened due to disuse or in compensation to pain, spasm or immobilization.
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) is a relatively low voltage applied over painful areas through small self-adhesive electrodes. The electrical stimulation "disguises" or "overrides" the sensation of pain. It is a small, portable unit, used in intervals, to control pain and reduce dependence on drugs. It is usually prescribed for relief of pain.
Ultrasound uses a high frequency sound wave emitted from the sound head when electricity is passed through a quartz crystal. The sound waves cause the vibration of water molecules deep within tissue causing a heating effect. When the sound waves are pulsed, they cause a vibration of the tissue rather than heating. The stream of sound waves helps with nutrition exchange at the cellular level and healing. Studies have shown that ultrasound is helpful for ligament healing and clinically, for carpal tunnel syndrome, and muscle spasm.
A special harness system used to decrease or eliminate the pain of walking. When a weight bearing joint such as the ankle, knee, hip or back is injured, painful walking can slow the recovery process. Unweighted ambulation is recommended for bulging or herniated discs in the lumbar spine, post-operative conditions, hip and knee arthritis and sprains of the lower extremities.
Flare-ups are not uncommon. If you have a flare-up (exacerbation), give us a call. We may suggest you come back to see us, return to your doctor, or simply modify your daily activities or exercise routine.
Some patients will need to continue with home exercises. Some may choose to continue with a gym exercise program. Others will complete their rehabilitation and return to normal daily activities. It is important that you communicate your goals to your therapist, so he/she can develop a custom program for you.
A physical therapist may perform an initial evaluation or consultation of a screening nature to determine the need for physical therapy. However, implementation of physical therapy treatment shall otherwise be based on the prescription or referral of a person licensed to practice medicine, surgery, dentistry, podiatry, or chiropractic.
Physical therapists (PTs), Occupational Therapists and physical therapist assistants (PTAs) are licensed by their respective states.