Ancient Greek physician Hippocrates, known as the Father of Medicine, is credited as one of the first practitioners of physical therapy, treating people with manual therapy, massage and hydrotherapy. More modernized physical therapy advanced with the polio outbreak of 1916 and during World War I when women were recruited to restore physical function to wounded soldiers.
Today the healthcare profession of physical therapy or physiotherapy is part of medical rehabilitation services and is the focus of the 2022 National Rehabilitation Awareness Week, September 19-25. This year’s theme highlights how medical rehabilitation care makes a transformative impact on patients in their journey to recovery.
How can physical therapy help with one’s overall health?
Physical therapists help people who are ill or injured manage their pain and improve their movement and quality of life. A vital part of physical therapy often includes preventative care, treatment of chronic conditions and rehabilitation after surgery.
All think physical therapists have earned a doctor of physical therapy degree (DPT) and are fully licensed. We work with doctors, surgeons and other healthcare providers to evaluate each patient and develop an individualized plan of care with patient goals and expected outcomes. We review a patient’s medical history, observe movement patterns and create a plan of care to help them return to meaningful activities. We listen to the patient’s concerns and challenges that limit their daily activities and preferred lifestyle.
We are not just looking at a diagnosis, we are looking at the entire individual and how we can help each patient be as happy and healthy as possible. Rehab is different for every person we see. For example, someone recovering from a stroke needs a different rehabilitation plan from someone recovering from knee surgery. Everyone has different needs, and we look at the picture of the whole person and determine specific things we together can work on to improve the patient’s overall health.
What medical conditions does physical therapy treat?
Physical therapy cares for people of all ages with a variety of physical conditions. Physical therapists also called PTs are trained in multiple techniques including hands-on manual movements of joints, muscles and other soft tissue and therapeutic tools such as heat, ice, traction, ultrasound and laser. Physical therapists are also trained in teaching patients how to use adaptive equipment including braces, canes, crutches, walkers and wheelchairs.
Categories of medical conditions that physical therapy treats include:
Orthopedic—musculoskeletal rehabilitation for fractures, injuries, arthritis, amputations, neck and spine pain, joint pain, chronic pain and sports-related concussions
Neurological—interventions for disc disease, stroke, degenerative diseases (i.e., Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis) and other neuro-muscular conditions
Cardiac and pulmonary—specialized rehab in recovering from a heart attack or heart or lung disease
Post-surgical—focus on mobility and pain reduction in joints (shoulder, back, neck, knee, foot, etc.) and improved conditioning after general surgery
Postpartum and pelvic health—targeted retraining and strengthening major muscles in pelvic floor, abdomen, back and diaphragm
Oncology management—treatments to reduce cancer-related fatigue, improve fitness and promote healing and wellness
Wound care—advanced wound-care treatments include ultrasound, electrical stimulation, compression bandaging and specific exercises
Vestibular-inner ear dysfunction—exercise-based program to improve balance and reduce problems with dizziness, vertigo and other issues of unsteadiness
Pediatrics—early intervention on motor skills and mobility for newborns to teens
Geriatrics—specialized programs to increase older adults’ strength, flexibility and movement
What are some of the most common issues think physical therapists see?
We primarily see orthopedic pain complaints such as low back pain, shoulder pain, rotator cuff tears, knee pain, hip pain, foot pain and every joint in between. We also see a lot of post-surgical patients as well as tendon-related pain including Achilles or patellar tendinopathy.
When it comes to patients with pain, the pain is taking away part of their life. It may be a specific disc herniation in which the pain is shooting down the leg to the foot. The person can’t climb stairs. They can’t bend over and pick up the kids or grandkids anymore and they can’t do normal housework or usual activities. Our job is to understand what things are physiologically contributing to that pain. Pain is not just biomechanical either, we also help a person understand how life stress and other psychological factors can influence pain. We help our patients through the process of pinpointing their pain and understanding how to resolve it.
How can the think balance and strength classes help?
Balance is crucial for maintaining a stable posture when sitting, standing or walking. Older adults with compromised balance are especially susceptible to falling. Keeping muscles strong is vital for protecting joints from injury, improving balance and reducing the risk of falling.
In the rehab area of our physical therapy gym, we offer a balance and strength class twice a week. Currently, Heather, one of our physical therapy assistants runs the program. First, she does a thorough balance assessment of each person to determine the individual’s potential fall risk. If a patient is in the high fall risk category, we strongly encourage them to continue their rehabilitation by taking the class.
Insurance does not pay for physical therapy forever, so this reasonably priced, self-pay class is designed for people who need to keep moving and regaining more strength. The class size is typically small from two to five people so that allows Heather more time to work one-to-one with each person in the class.
How do think healthcare providers work together on a patient’s rehabilitation?
Since we have several think medical specialties here in one building, our physical therapist team collaborates with the doctors—such as family doctors, internists, podiatrists, rheumatologists and geriatric internists—on each patient’s behalf. We communicate back and forth on what’s going on with the patient to give them the best care.
As physical therapists we ask: Do we need to work on soft tissue mobility? Do we need to work on a specific joint range of motion? How does the person move and what tissues do we need to create a change in to get the person moving more optimally? How do we help with the healing process and reduce pain? We look at movement and understand the anatomy and the symptoms to create an individualized rehab program so the patient can return as much as possible to full function, mobility and active wellness.
LEARN MORE ABOUT THE BALANCE AND STRENGTH CLASSES BY SPEAKING WITH YOUR PHYSICAL THERAPIST
Think makes it easy to receive both preventative care and treatment for a wide range of health conditions. From chronic back pain to post-surgery rehabilitation, our physical therapists, specialists and professional healthcare providers are here for you.
Our walk-in clinic treats anyone, even those who are not a think patient or do not have a primary care provider currently. To learn more about our comprehensive healthcare services, visit our Services page online and choose your own think medical professionals by visiting our Meet Your Doctor page.