October is National Physical Therapy month, a time of the year when physical therapists celebrate their profession while educating others about the role physical therapy plays in improving the health and vitality of their patients—and of health care in general.
In doing so, PT professionals are quick to note that while physical therapy’s roles are both broad and diverse, several misconceptions still exist about what physical therapy is, what it isn’t, and the various ways it can help people improve the health and lives of people of all stages in life.
“Physical therapy is a dynamic profession with an established theoretical and scientific base and widespread clinical applications in the restoration, maintenance and promotion of optimal physical function,” says the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), a member organization representing more than 93,000 physical therapists, physical therapy assistants and students of physical therapy.
According to the APTA, physical therapists (PTs) are highly educated and licensed health care professionals who can help patients reduce pain and improve or restore mobility. Sure, this includes those who’ve suffered musculoskeletal injuries, but it’s much more than that.
Here five common misconceptions about physical therapy:
1. I need to be injured to see a physical therapist.
Post-injury and post-surgical rehabilitation is just a sliver of what they do. It’s common for a physical therapist to treat other common ailments like balance issues, headaches, pelvic pain, chronic pain, incontinence, and basic joint and muscle pain. They also work with clients on injury prevention and athletic enhancement.
2. It’s going to hurt!
Physical therapists don’t subscribe to the philosophy of “no pain, no gain.” In fact, they’re specifically trained to work within your pain threshold to ensure your gains in movement and strength are safe and incremental.
3.Surgery and/or medication are better options.
Both have their place, but multiple studies have shown that physical therapy is more effective and safer than such common options as prescription painkillers and common surgeries for lumbar spinal stenosis, degenerative disk disease, and even meniscus tears.
4. PT is expensive.
Physical therapy is a real bargain when compared with surgery. But more than that, studies have shown that for the treatment of one of the most common ailments, non-specific back pain, patients can save up to 60 percent on their medical bills if they visit a physical therapist early in their treatment.
5. I can’t see a PT without a prescription or referral.
According to the APTA, this myth is shared by 70% of health care consumers. The truth is all 50 states allow patients to be evaluated by a PT without a physician referral, and all but Michigan allow some form of treatment or intervention without a referral or prescription.
To learn more about how physical therapy can benefit a particular ailment or condition, or for an injury, pain or movement evaluation, contact your local physical therapist with questions and to schedule an evaluation. And click here to learn more about National Physical Therapy Month!