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The Top 10 Things You Did Not Know About Physical Therapy

by Athletico25 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.

8.  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. Illinois became a Direct Access state in August of 2018 meaning a patient no longer 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.

If you would like to learn more from an Athletico physical therapist, please use the button below to schedule a free assessment at a clinic near you.

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The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.

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  1. 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.

  2. 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

  3. 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

  4. 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

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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

  8. Marisol

    I like that you mention the importance of continuing your home exercise program. My husband doesn’t want to do his exercises after the car accident. However, since I have talked him into doing them everyday he has become more mobile.

  9. Michael Robinson

    Wow, I had no idea that physical therapists could treat vertigo — that is really interesting! For a while now, I have been getting really dizzy and my motion sickness has been getting out of hand, and so I wonder if they could help me with that since they can help people with vertigo. As you explained, those dizzy feelings are most likely being caused by a dysfunction of the vestibular system in the inner ear. My life would be incredibly different if I could treat that! Thanks again, and I look forward to contacting a physical therapist to take a look at it.

  10. Ann

    Regarding no pain no gain… I have been in therapy for shoulder surgery for five weeks now in the pain is excruciating when I go home which prohibits me from doing my at-home exercises. I feel that my therapist has no empathy and really doesn’t give me any guidance, should I be in this much pain? Also I think it’s time for me to try out A new therapist

  11. Allen Stillinger

    It was truly informative how you said that vertigo was a dysfunction of the vestibular in the inner ear and that it can be treated by physical therapy quite easily. That’s good to know because I can remember my mom complaining about vertigo a few weeks ago. She mentioned how troublesome it was and how it affected the way she worked in the restaurant. I want to help her out, and I think I found the right treatment. Surely, she’ll love it since she also likes therapies. Thanks!

  12. Celestia Stratheimer

    It was great that I came across this article because I learned that there are various types of physical therapists like orthopedic, post-operative care, cardiovascular rehab, and other practices. A friend of mine is in need of cardiovascular care as of now, and I decided to research the possible ways to treat her without opening her up. Considering that physical therapy is non-invasive treatment, I am sure she will appreciate hearing about this one. Thank you!

  13. Rachel Frampton

    Thanks for the great physical therapy tips. I am getting ready to start a round of physical therapy for the first time and didn’t know a lot of this information. I think you made a great point about making sure you do your home exercise program and that if you don’t you ay very well end up back in the physical therapist’s office for the same problem. I will have to keep this in mind so I recover faster.

  14. Caden Dahl

    Of the things you have listed here, I do think that the last one is pretty important. You are right that if you aren’t doing your at home exercises, then you’ll just keep having to go back for the same problem. Now if I hurt myself in a way where I needed to hire one, I would for sure follow their program once I am able to do things on my own.

  15. Robert ror

    While you are working hard in the clinic to regain range of motion or to strengthen your quadriceps muscle after an injury, your physical therapist may be watching your form or counting your repetitions. It may appear that your physical therapist is not really working that hard, but he or she is most likely hard at work making decisions about your care or thinking up ways to best keep you motivated during therapy.

  16. Sam

    So true. Physical therapy requires a doctor because they’re designed for you to slowly but surely increase your range of motion. I went to Pain+Recovery for my physical therapy. It was difficult and hard but my therapist helped me push through it and now my knee is fully better. I’m so grateful.

  17. Ellie Davis

    It’s interesting to know that pediatric physical therapists can treat positional vertigo in as little as one session. My brother is looking for advice to treat his son’s vertigo, and we are looking for advice. I will let him know about the benefits of hiring a pediatric physical therapist to see if it helps.

  18. Zoe Campos

    Thank you for telling me that physical therapists can also treat vertigo and some can do it in just one session. I experienced a short moment of dizziness today as I was doing the dishes and thought that it might be something serious. I think its best for me to consult a licensed therapist first to see if I can get treated from positional vertigo.

  19. Rebecca Gardner

    It made sense when you said that physical therapists recommend home exercises for a reason, so we need to follow through with them if we actually want to get better. I’ve been thinking about finding a manual therapy service I can visit to help me improve my mobility since I threw out my back last week. Thanks for sharing this advice I can use to get the most value out of working with a physical therapist!

  20. Alice Carroll

    Wow, it’s amazing to learn that vertigo is something that can be treated through physical therapy. My roommate has been suffering from a few bouts of vertigo just this past month and I’m not quite sure how I can be of help to her. Maybe it would be best to just have an in-home physical therapy service to help her out with this.

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