The Top 10 Things You Did Not Know About Physical Therapy

by Liz Hoobchaak | 16 Comments

Ever wonder what there is to know about physical therapy that you don’t already know? Here are the top 10 things you may not know about physical therapy.

10.  Physical therapists can work in a variety of settings such as hospitals, outpatient clinics, private practices, home health agencies, schools, nursing homes, and even the Emergency Room.

9.  In addition to working in different settings, there are different types of physical therapy. These may include orthopedic, acute care, post-operative care, cardiovascular and pulmonary rehab, lymphedema management, wound care, and neurologic rehabilitation.

Vestibular Physical Therapy8.  Physical therapists can treat vertigo. Positional vertigo, when you experience very brief bouts of dizziness with changes in position or movement of the head, is the most common cause of dizziness. It is a dysfunction of the vestibular system in the inner ear. It can successfully be treated in as little as one session with a physical therapist.

7. Physical therapists hold advanced degrees. I am shocked at the number of patients who are surprised when they find out that I hold a Doctorate degree, or even went to graduate school, to become a physical therapist. Many years ago, you could practice physical therapy with a bachelor’s degree. However, our scope of practice and knowledge of medicine has grown tremendously in the last few decades that most graduate programs offer an entry-level 3-year Doctorate of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree. Physical therapists have to pass a medical board exam in order to obtain their license to treat patients.

6.  In many states, you can be evaluated and treated by a physical therapist without seeing your doctor first. These states have Direct Access. More states are leaning towards this practice since the profession of physical therapy is growing so rapidly with the requirement of an advanced degree. Currently, Illinois is not a Direct Access state, and a patient needs a prescription from a doctor to be treated by a physical therapist.

5.  Physical therapists alone cannot diminish your symptoms. When treating patients, I often wish I had a magic wand to wave over an ailing body part. Unfortunately, we cannot perform magic. Physical therapy is successful when the patient and the therapist work together on creating a treatment plan in order to meet the patient’s goals.

4.  If you tell your physical therapist that an exercise is easy, we will make it harder. If you tell your physical therapist that you can’t do an exercise, we will find a way to ensure that you can.

3.  When a physical therapist tells you they are going to massage a muscle, it may not feel like the nice relaxing massage you get at the spa. Massage performed in therapy is to decrease tightness and tone and to improve tissue mobility of a specific muscle that may be very inflamed or the source of joint pain.

2.  “No Pain, No Gain” does not always hold true. There are a few diagnoses where this saying holds true, such as when working on range of motion after a knee replacement or if you have a frozen shoulder. Most of the time, treatments and exercises should be relatively pain-free. If being treated for low back pain or an overuse injury in a tendon, you want to stay away from certain movements or positions that may aggravate the condition.

1.  It is so important to do your home-exercise program! There is a reason that your physical therapist puts in the time and effort of designing a home program specifically for you. If you don’t follow their recommendation during therapy or after you are discharged, you will get to know your therapist very well because you will be seeing them again and again for the same problem.


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  4. jenn

    I’m glad you mentioned that silly phrase “no pain, no gain.” It may be true in some situations, but it’s not accurate with physical therapy. If you’re in a lot of pain, you need to let your PT know as soon as possible. Some positions or stretches could actually be damaging the injured body part even more.

  5. Alice Han

    I am so happy I read your article to understand about what kind of physical therapist can do. I have a hip problem with vestibular weakness( dizzyness and vertigo) I am 80 years old this going on for almost a year. For most people probably disabled long time, but I am still functioning, even though very difficult but still struggling. I am a rehab nurse, under a very good therapist care in Manhattan. Unfortunately after three month treatments ( each time I travel two and half hours one way to get there ) under him, My Medicare do not cover me anymore, But they told me I can find a therapist from the list they give me, Which can cover me for 60 visits, I am right is looking for the right therapist from their list, I am wondering which one I should choose. In front of PT, they have P PT; T Pt; R Pt; D PT; L Pt; I PT ; G Pt; M Pt; H PT; A PT; J PT and PC , I am wondering Which one should I choose? can you tell me ? Kindly, Sincerelly, Alice Han

  6. kisanet

    hey, I am a student at Lafayette high school buffalo NY and I am a senior I was just wondering that I want to be physical therapist. I don’t know what kind of physical therapist should I be and I want to know more information about physical therapist. I am asking for help, would you help please. This is my email ( )

    thank you!

    sincerely, Kisanet Berhe

  7. Matt

    You are incorrect with frozen shoulder being a no pain no gain thing. Read the evidence on it. You are not supposed to stretch a frozen shoulder into pain

  8. Susan Grenier

    I had so much pain during my physical therapy. The more I went the worse it got. It became unbarable. I had a spinal fusion of c-5 c-6 6 months prior to physical therapy and it was my 2nd attempt at physical therapy. This time around they had me doing chin exerciseso and deep neck exercises. It caused me the greatest pain in my life, with electrifying pain in my neck region and headaches worse than any migraine, so bad it felt like my head was going to explode. When I did the deep neck exercises my head would shake immediately and it felt like my head was going to fall off my body and my head felt as heavy as a bowling ball. It was intolerable. I finally told them I would not do it anymore. I also had severe weakness in my arms and pins and needles and numbness in my arms all the way to my fingertips.
    After a month my primary care Dr. Ordered a CT . My surgeon would not. It turned out I still had severe spinal stenosis in c-5 and 6. I also had a new producing disk in c-3 and 4. I was told not to go back to physical therapy by my primary care Dr. My pain started to lessen right away and my symptoms slowly subsided. I don’t know why this happened. It makes no sense to me and no one can explain it at physical therapy, or will even talk to me for that matter . When I ask any questions about it they are avoided.

  9. Jay Indravadan Patel

    Hello Susan Grenier,

    I have read your case history you have mentioned here. Well, I would say if you provide me the detailed report of it, I will be interested to help you and answer your queries.

    I have a few things to point out here –
    1. Did you inform the PT before hand that you have stenosis at C 5 – C 6 region?
    2. Were you guided by your surgeon to undergo PT
    3. How old is your pain issue?
    4. What were the steps involved from the starting of your symptom till the last day of mentioning this post?
    5. Was the MRI/CT scan were compared by the Radiologist of the pre PT session and Post ortho reference.
    6. You haven’t mention about your age, occupation, FADL, etc.

    there are many questions which arise in my mind, i am listing a few above. if you provide a detail report can understand your case better.

    Important Notes:
    1. Surgery at C 5 – C 6 level is highly risky, hope your Surgeon has told you about it.
    2. 90% of surgeon fear to use the knife, for the safety of the patient.
    3. Surgeon themselves have to look for an alternative way for your physical disability, as there is 90% risk of surgery.
    4. PT tries to help to regain the muscle strength.
    5. PT helps to maintain the coordination in muscle groups and tries to help to back to life.

    Very Important –
    in your blog you mentioned that how come a new disc injury is noticed after a CT scan?
    Well, to mention here, no injury is instant, its always a period of time, which i hope you are aware of?

    This are a few comments to mention about.

    You can feel free contact me on my email ID
    or else you we can arrange a face to face consultation on google hangout and workout for your query.

    It will be great pleasure to correct your insight towards PT
    It will be even great to help you sort out your problem.

  10. Carlena

    Physical therapy sounds cool but I have so much pain don’t want to do that I want a cat Scan first to see what may be the issue but my doc. Want therapy first what’s that gonna prove on a knee that hurts badly I’m in Washington DC. what xrays first

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