7 good reasons to treat pain and injury with physical therapy

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FEATURE — One of the main reasons a person goes to a doctor is pain, often seeking medication for a quick fix because other treatments have not worked.

Increasingly, however, a patient experiencing lower back pain, or similar conditions, walks out of the doctor’s office with a prescription for physical therapy. Some patients are disappointed or discouraged, others disregard the prescription entirely.

How will physical therapy help, they wonder, how long will it take before they feel bette and how much will it cost?

Hopefully, the patient takes the doctor’s prescription and schedules an appointment with the physical therapist. When it comes to the human body and health, doctors know things. They read the research and keep informed about treatments that are proven to work and those that don’t. And they know the benefits and risks of medication.

Physical therapy is often an effective first treatment for all sorts of musculoskeletal conditions. 

But there are those who disregard professional advice and choose not to have physical therapy. It is understandable and there may be some respectable reasons for not choosing therapy. But the reasons in favor of physical therapy are much stronger than any reasons against it.

Following are seven good reasons to see a physical therapist:

1. To reduce or eliminate pain.

Physical therapists can manage or eliminate pain without medication and its side effects. Studies have shown that people who choose physical therapy usually experience a greater enhancement in function with reduced pain.

Although medication may be prescribed in some cases, physical therapy helps a great deal when it comes to reducing pain and eliminating the need for any pain medication.

2. To recover faster.

Physical therapy shortens the period of recovery. Injuries involving a joint, muscle or ligament usually cause a specific part of the body to become stiff or immobile. Without physical therapy, it could take a long time to regain full mobility; or worse, the injured area could permanently lose strength, mobility and function if it is not fully rehabilitated.

Physical therapy becomes easier once the patient gets in the swing of it and strength and overall health start to improve. 

3. To improve mobility and maintain independence.

Physical therapists have the most specialized education to help improve mobility. Many physical therapists are seasoned veterans with years of clinical practice. Newer graduates are doctors of physical therapy.

These are trusted health care professionals who have extensive education and experience in diagnosing and treating conditions that limit the body’s ability to move and function in daily life. Physical therapists can also teach patients how to manage a condition for long-term health benefits, independence and safety.

4. To avoid surgery

If an injury heals after undergoing physical therapy, surgery may not be necessary. If surgery is still required, the patient will benefit greatly from pre-surgery physical therapy. The stronger and better shape the patient is in going into surgery, the faster the recovery time is likely to be following the procedure.

5. To improve balance and prevent falls.

Before starting physical therapy a person will be screened for fall risk. Those who are at high risk for falls usually do exercises that carefully and safely challenge their balance in a way that mimics real-life situations. A therapist will also help with exercises that improve coordination and the use of assistive devices that aid safer walking.

If a balance issue is caused by problems in the vestibular system, which affects motion, equilibrium and spatial orientation, the physical therapist can perform maneuvers that will restore the system to proper working order, eliminating dizziness and vertigo.

6. To prevent or recover from a sports injury.

Physical therapists spend a lot of time understanding human movement. Applying this knowledge to sports helps therapists know how different sports can increase a person’s risk for specific injuries. The therapist can then design an appropriate prevention or recovery exercise program that will ensure safety in that sport.

7. To spend less money in the long run and live a better life.

Even if a patient’s insurance plan includes a copay or deductible for physical therapy, the money spent now often pales in comparison to the money that will be spent down the road if the issue is not taken care of properly.

Effective physical therapy will not only help the problem today, it has a preventative benefit. The chances of the problem reoccurring are minimized. In the end, less money will be spent overall and improved health and function will help a person live better. 

Darren Marchant

Written by Darren Marchant for St. George Heath and Wellness magazine and St. George News.

Darren is the founder and CEO of Fit Physical Therapy. He attended Southern Utah University where he earned a BA in Psychology. He attended Des Moines University where he earned a Masters Degree in Physical Therapy. Darren specializes in orthopedic physical therapy and earned his board certification as an Orthopedic Specialist. He is a member of the American Physical Therapy Association, and serves on the Board of Advisors for the Dixie State Physical Therapist Assistant program. He also serves as a clinical instructor for several physical therapy schools.

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