There may be times in life when pain and stiffness from illness, age, injury, or other factors can make you a candidate for physical therapy, or PT, a medical treatment that can improve physical function through therapies like massages, exercises, and stretches. Personally, physical therapy has helped me recover from minor athletic injuries like shin splints and has improved my strength and mobility after breaking my ankle.
Physical therapist Payal Patel of JAG-ONE Physical Therapy in East Windsor, New Jersey, discusses how to get the most out of physical therapy and shares what anyone can do to limit their pain and help keep their body strong, flexible, and mobile.
Why do people usually go to PT?
In outpatient settings, patients seek PT for injuries and chronic pain. PT can treat many other conditions, too, such as pelvic dysfunction, dizziness, general weakness, poor endurance, and the effects of long-term COVID. In the aging population, where there is an increased risk for falls, they can be treated for balance and gait issues.
How does PT help patients?
Physical therapy is a constructive way to treat their pain and dysfunction without the need for more invasive medical procedures like shots, surgeries, or medication. It can help a person get their life back, whether they want to reach personal or work-related goals or improve their family life.
How can patients get the most out of PT?
Patients do better when they follow the home-exercise program provided by their physical therapist and attend all their PT sessions. In conjunction with therapy, we also often make lifestyle recommendations that should be implemented, such as staying active, avoiding sitting for prolonged periods of time, and paying attention to ergonomics, sleeping positions, and posture.
What else can patients do to enhance their treatment?
They should provide their therapist with important information, such as what helps lessen their pain and when it began. Small details can go a long way toward catering to their specific needs. They should also be sure to ask questions when they have them.
Why is it important to attend PT sessions regularly?
Your physical therapist needs to see you regularly to check on your gains and setbacks, adjust your treatment plan, and attend to your specific needs. Going to all your PT sessions will help you recover faster. Just like exercising at a gym, you won’t get results if you don’t consistently show up.
How much of PT’s success relies on at-home exercises?
We see you only two to three hours a week. If you don’t do your PT homework, your goals most likely won’t be achieved. Just like you need to brush your teeth at least twice daily, you must regularly do your home exercises to make the physical changes necessary to meet your goals.
What common everyday activities tend to cause pain or injury?
Typically, injuries arise from prolonged sitting, such as from office work or lounging on the couch. Over time, these activities can lead to changes in the spine that can be harmful to your normal functioning and can impede activities like standing and walking, dressing, bathing, and going up and down stairs. Yard work is also a common cause of injury, and the key to not getting hurt is to focus on your form while you work and to take breaks.
How many PT sessions does a patient usually need?
It depends on the condition. For example, a disorder called BPPV (commonly known as vertigo) can require just one to three sessions. However, the average number of sessions for most conditions is usually six weeks to achieve long-term improvement. There are times when more visits are needed, such as for postsurgical or chronic conditions. Every situation and every person is different, so the number of required sessions can vary.
What should a patient do after they complete their PT sessions?
They should keep up with the exercises provided by their therapist. This will prevent their pain from returning and help them maintain all the great things they achieved with PT. They also need to keep in mind all the recommendations from their physical therapist, such as their posture, ergonomics, and how to properly lift objects.
How can the average person improve their physical condition, even if they aren’t in PT?
They can do some weight training, stretching, cardiovascular exercises, and balance work. Weight training can prevent future injuries and slow some of the effects of aging. Stretching is important for joint mobility, and adding balance exercises could help them avoid falls and hip, knee, ankle, and lower-back injuries. Cardiovascular activities like walking, running, and elliptical training can boost energy levels, endurance, overall mobility, and heart health.