When your doctor wants to get you back on your feet after an injury, he or she might prescribe rest, cold, heat and physical therapy.

Many patients with chronic pain conditions can benefit by following a physical therapy program. Your therapist may also send you home with a short series of exercises to perform at home once you’re familiar with them.

If your doctor has recently prescribed physical therapy, here are some things you should know about this useful treatment:

1. Your Physical Therapist is a Doctor

Your therapist is a trained medical practitioner with a Doctorate. You may be seen by a therapist technician during your visits, but a DPT (Doctor of Physical Therapy) will do your intake and evaluations. They’ll be in charge of your care and plan your treatment. An advanced physical therapy technician may supervise exercises during your session. But your DPT will ultimately be responsible for your course of treatment.

2. Physical Therapy Reduces Costs

Physical therapy can save you thousands in medical costs. A 2012 study reviewed the effects of early physical therapy intervention in cases of lower back pain. They found an average savings of over $2,700 for medical costs. Some of the reduced expenses included less medication and fewer follow-up visits.

physical therapy improves your fitness level

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3. Physical Therapy and Chiropractic Are Not the Same

Although the goals of physical therapy and chiropractic are similar, they are not the same things. Physical therapists work to reduce pain by strengthening and stretching the muscles that support the joints and spine. Chiropractic focuses on manipulating the spine and joints into proper position. Chiropractic can often alleviate pain immediately with an adjustment. However, some patients select physical therapy over chiropractic for long-term relief of their symptoms.

4. You Will Need Several Sessions a Week

Your therapist may recommend you take two to three sessions a week. This is so they can monitor your progress frequently. Physical therapy can leave you sore and tired the next day. Your therapist needs to ensure the program is not pushing you too far, too fast.

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5. Your Treatment Program is Unique

Physical therapy programs are custom-tailored to your condition. Your therapist will prescribe a course of treatment that directly deals with your problems. The plan may require several stages of treatment. For example, if you’re suffering back pain, your therapist will want to treat the pain. She may prescribe massage and flexibility exercises first. Once you’re improved, she may have you do core exercises to prevent the pain in the future.

6. You’ll Have Homework

You’ll receive a program of exercise to perform at home. Sticking to your home program will help speed your recovery. This can also reduce the number of office treatments required, which can result in some savings. Not only that, keeping up with your exercises after treatment is done will help keep you out of the therapist’s office in future. This self-help physical therapy will continue all the benefits of professional treatment.

7. Massage for Physical Therapy Can Be Painful

Physical therapy is not a day spa. You may receive human massages to relieve muscle tightness, but most likely your massages will be at the hands of a TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) machine. Or the technician may hook you up to an EMS (electronic muscle stimulation) machine. You may receive a manual massage, but it could be painful. Rather than attempting to soothe tired muscles in a relaxing atmosphere, your massage therapist will be working out muscle tightness. If they’ve spasmed or are inflamed, this can be painful. Let your therapist know right away, but the relief it provides afterward may be its own reward.

Physical therapy can include manual massage.

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8. Physical Therapy Exercise is Exercise

Physical therapy can be work. Some of your exercises will seem too easy or seem to take little effort. Others will be as difficult as calisthenics or a gym workout. Your therapist needs your feedback in order to adapt your routine to your changing condition. So make sure that you let them know.

9. You Need to Talk To Your Physical Therapist

Physical Therapy is not necessarily always painful. Pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone can cause discomfort. But your therapist isn’t trying to hurt you on purpose. This is why feedback is so important. A painful movement may cause more harm than good, so speak up. Your therapist will adjust your program accordingly.

10. Many Health Conditions Benefit from Physical Therapy

Physical therapists treat a wide range of conditions. Along with injuries and musculoskeletal conditions, DPTs also treat a range of neurological and autoimmune disorders. Patients with multiple sclerosis and cerebral palsy get benefits from working with a DPT. Those with autoimmune disorders like fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis experience decreased pain and better mobility with physical therapy treatment.

11. Physical Therapists Treat People of All Ages

Physical therapy isn’t just for the aging. Physical Therapists often treat children. Pediatric physical therapy treats sports injuries and “growing pains.” This can be caused by Osgood-Schlatter’s disease or Sever’s disease. Therapy can help reduce the pain and disability associated with these short-term, non-critical conditions. They also treat young children to improve fine and grow motor function. Children with developmental disorders can benefit from physical and occupational therapy treatment.

Physical therapy improves many chronic pain conditions. Open access health plans allow patients to consult with a DPT on self-referral. Increased mobility and less pain are just two of the many benefits. It can be work, but like any physical fitness or exercise program, the result is a fitter and healthier body.

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