Does physical therapy actually work? What you need to know

Anybody who lives an active lifestyle runs the risk of injury. Even if you aren’t an athlete, everyday activities can lead to various aches, pains or injury. In fact, 50% of American adults develop a musculoskeletal injury each year. You might be able to temporarily relieve your pain through medication or ice packs. But, you deserve a long-term solution to your pain. Physical therapy may be able to help. A physical therapist can help reduce your current symptoms and support your long-term well-being.

But does physical therapy actually work? Continue reading to learn more about physical therapy and its proven benefits.

What is physical therapy?

Physical therapy is a type of rehabilitative care. It focuses on diagnosing and treating problems with your musculoskeletal system. Your musculoskeletal system includes your bones, ligaments, tendons and connective tissue. Together, they support your body’s weight, maintain your posture and allow you to move. As such, physical therapists treat muscular injuries and chronic or acute conditions. Physical therapy can also help you recover limb function after a major surgery.

Physical therapists use specialized techniques to reduce pain, increase mobility and improve movement. These techniques can include passive movements or active movements. During passive movements, the therapist guides you using their hands or an instrument. Active movements are exercises that you do yourself. Treatment can also include physical stimuli like heat, cold, electrical currents or ultrasound. Your physical therapist may even design an exercise routine for you to do at home.

The techniques that a physical therapist uses will depend on your symptoms. A key part of physical therapy is evaluating your symptoms and forming a diagnosis. A physical therapist then designs a treatment plan to address the root cause of your symptoms and help prevent future injury.

Does physical therapy actually work?

There are many reasons to seek care from a physical therapist. Physical therapy can help with anything from pain management to injury rehabilitation. But, you may be wondering if physical therapy actually works. Here are seven examples of how physical therapy may be beneficial to you, backed by science:

  • Rehab from a sports-related injury — Not all sports-related injuries need surgery. According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, physical therapy can support your recovery from a sports injury. It can help you regain strength, improve range of motion and decrease pain while you heal. A physical therapist may also use targeted exercises to strengthen the affected area. This can help prevent future injury.
  • Reduced pain — You may be able to reduce your symptoms through physical therapy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests physical therapy for pain management. In fact, 41% of patients looking for drug-free pain relief found physical therapy to be the most effective alternative.
  • Support for neurological conditions — Physical therapy techniques can help people with neurological conditions. But does this physical therapy actually work? A 2017 review found that gait and balance training can have long-term positive effects for people with Parkinson’s disease. Other studies have shown that exercise therapy can improve the symptoms of patients with chronic dizziness.
  • Reduced arthritis symptoms — People with arthritis often suffer from joint inflammation and pain. Physical therapy techniques, like guided joint stretching, can be used to treat arthritis. The Arthritis Foundation also recommends physical therapy for arthritis patients. They state that it can improve joint mobility and function.
  • Improved pelvic floor dysfunctionStudies have shown that physical therapy is an effective treatment for pelvic floor disorders. Pelvic floor physical therapy focuses on improving pelvic floor strength, endurance and relaxation. This helps reduce symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction, like urinary leakage.
  • Shortened post-surgery recovery — Physical therapy is also recommended for people recovering from surgery. Several studies have supported the use of physical therapy for hospitalized patients. Patients who completed physical therapy had better muscle function and strength upon discharge. They also could walk longer distances and had an improved quality of life. 
  • Chronic pain management — Physical therapy can also help manage symptoms of chronic pain conditions like fibromyalgia. One study found that strength training led to reduced pain and higher quality of life for people with fibromyalgia. Another concluded that gentle, hands-on physical therapy can help manage pain symptoms in fibromyalgia patients.

Think physical therapy might be a good fit for you? Connect with our Lattimore PT specialists to jump-start your healing journey

Are you currently recovering from a physical injury or struggling with chronic pain? Physical therapy can help support your healing process. The current body of research shows that physical therapy does actually work. Take the first step toward recovery by making an appointment at a Lattimore PT location near you.

Our physical therapists will take the time to understand your specific needs. In your first appointment, your therapist will conduct a 45-minute to one-hour evaluation. Then, they will work with you to create a treatment plan designed to set you on the path to recovery. Come see the benefits of physical therapy and feel the improvements to your quality of life.

Contact our team today for more information or to schedule an initial appointment.

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