7 Things You Didn't Know About Physical Therapy

man with doctor doing physical therapy 

For many people, recovering from an injury, surgery, or serious illness is a long process that extends beyond the initial hospital stay. In addition to plenty of rest, a nutritious diet, and wound care if necessary, restoring functional mobility to the affected body part is a top priority. Physical therapy helps patients achieve this goal, but there are many misconceptions about its benefits and limitations. If a doctor has recommended physical therapy for you or someone you love, here are 7 things about it you might not know:

1. Physical therapists are skilled, experienced, and highly educated

Like most people in the healthcare field, physical therapists are not only compassionate and motivated to help others, but they are also highly trained after years of rigorous education. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in physiotherapy, physical therapists must complete a doctorate degree program and meet the additional requirements of each state’s licensing board. In total, the education requirements for physical therapists fall somewhere between the requirements for a nurse and a physician, ensuring you’re in good—and highly skilled—hands.

2. Physical therapy has several classifications

There are many areas of expertise within the field of physical therapy, allowing therapists to specialize in specific ailments. Some of the classifications include cardiovascular and pulmonary rehabilitation, neurological rehabilitation, post-operative care, orthopedic care, acute care, and wound care.

3. Physical therapy can treat many medical conditions

Recovery from illness, injury or surgery is the most common reason patients undergo physical therapy, but there are several medical conditions that can benefit in various ways from physical rehabilitation, including:

  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Huntington’s Disease
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Lymphedema
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Vertigo
  • Muscular Dystrophy
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
  • Diabetes
  • Pelvic pain and sexual dysfunction

4. Patients of all ages can benefit from physical therapy

A common misconception about physical therapy is that it primarily treats otherwise healthy adults suffering from temporary medical conditions. However, physical therapists work with patients of all ages, from infants struggling to reach developmental milestones to senior citizens recovering from a stroke. Functional mobility can be compromised at any age for a wide variety of reasons, and physical therapists have the skills to treat them all.

5. Physical therapy is not meant to be painful

Restoring functional mobility is often a long, gradual process, and while some measure of discomfort is common, pain is usually an indicator that something isn’t right. For example, physical therapy for an injury will avoid certain movements or positions that aggravate the condition—pain means adjustment in the treatment is required.  

6. Physical therapists are not masseuses 

As mentioned above, physical therapists require extensive education to obtain a license, but many people still assume physical therapy isn’t much different than a complex massage. However, masseuses typically provide massages for the purpose of relaxation and stress relief. The types of massage used to treat physical therapy patients involve different techniques and a completely different goal: improving the function of a muscle.

7. Treatment at a physical therapy clinic alone is not enough 

Most physical therapy treatments involve sessions within a clinic (or private at-home sessions with a therapist) as well as a customized exercise program for patients to follow between sessions. For the best results, it’s important for patients to follow the at-home program—otherwise full recovery can take much longer than anticipated. The at-home program is typically less strenuous than treatments within the clinic, with the goal of maintaining mobility levels that the physical therapist can build upon at the next session. 

Compassionate care and effective recovery 

If you or someone you love is in need of physical therapy in San Diego, Bella Vista Health Center can help. Our skilled nursing facility offers short- and long-term rehabilitative care that combines compassion with innovative programming and helps patients achieve maximum recovery and independence. To learn more, give us a call at (619) 644-1000 or fill out our contact form to schedule a tour.