You may think of physical therapy as something that helps rehabilitate after an injury, but it encompasses much more than that. Physical therapy is a type of specialized therapy provided to help a person regain or maintain physical abilities, including mobility, gait and function.
Because every injury or illness is unique, a person’s physical therapy recommendations are also unique. A trained physical therapist will recommend a specific and individualized regimen designed to help a patient overcome deficits, reduce pain and improve overall functioning.
The physical therapist works in conjunction with other members of a patient’s care team, including his or her physician.
Why Do You Need Physical Therapy?
You might need physical therapy for a variety of reasons. For example, if you experience an acute or chronic injury — or undergo a surgical procedure to treat an injury — you may need physical therapy to help you regain strength and mobility in the affected limb.
Patients who have experienced a stroke — a neurological condition that can impair brain function — often require physical therapy to help them restore physical limitations that may occur when the brain is deprived of oxygen.
Physical therapy can also be prescribed to help a person maintain his or her current level of functioning. This can be the case when a person has a progressive disease such as Parkinson’s disease, which can affect mobility over time, or when a person’s abilities begin to diminish with age.
What to Expect During Physical Therapy
Physical therapy differs from patient to patient, since therapy is individualized based on the patient’s specific needs. At your first appointment, your physical therapist will spend time reviewing your medical history and deficits you are experiencing. Based on this information, he or she will recommend a specific regimen to help you reach your treatment goals.
Your physical therapy sessions will include guided exercises in conjunction with joint mobilization, manual therapy, strength training and, potentially, other types of therapy, including occupational and/or speech therapies.
Recovering From Physical Therapy
Because physical therapy requires you to move your body in multiple ways, it can sometimes cause discomfort. Your physical therapist or medical provider will offer suggestions on alleviating any residual discomfort.
Physical therapy also often involves prescribed exercises meant to be performed at home between sessions.