Physical therapy is a
type of treatment you may need when health problems make it hard to move around
and do everyday tasks. It helps you move better and may relieve pain. It also
helps improve or restore your physical function and your fitness level.
The goal of physical therapy is to make daily tasks and activities
easier. For example, it may help with walking, going up stairs, or getting in
and out of bed.
As recently as 20 years ago, people with chronic pain were too often dismissively
told that their problem was "in their heads" or that they were
hypochondriacs. But in the last decade, a handful of dedicated researchers
learned that chronic pain is not simply a symptom of something else -- such as
anxiety, depression, or a need for
attention -- but a disease in its own right, one that can alter a person's
emotional, professional, and family life in profound and debilitating ways.
Physical therapy can help with recovery after some
surgeries. Your doctor may suggest physical therapy for injuries or long-term
health problems such as arthritis or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Physical therapy may be used alone or with other
What does a physical therapist do?
physical therapist will examine you and talk to you about your symptoms and your daily activity. He or she will then work with you on a
treatment plan. The goals are to help your joints move better and to restore or increase
your flexibility, strength, endurance, coordination, and/or balance.
First, your therapist will try to reduce your pain and swelling. Your physical therapist also may use
manual therapy, education, and techniques such as
heat, cold, water, ultrasound, and electrical stimulation.
Treatment may cause mild soreness or swelling. This is normal, but talk
to your physical therapist if it bothers you.
What should you look for in a physical therapist?
You'll want a therapist who has experience with your
health problem. Some physical therapists are board-certified in areas such as orthopedics, sports, and neurology and may offer more specialized care. Physical therapists can also specialize in certain types of care, such as: