Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier
WebMD

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine
WebMD

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion
    WebMD

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community
    WebMD

    Community

    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Pain Management Health Center

Font Size
A
A
A

Physical Therapy - Topic Overview

What is physical therapy?

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.

Recommended Related to Pain Management

Sleep Comfortably

Do you wake up in the morning feeling more tired than you did when you went to bed? Something's wrecking your sleep. Maybe it's your bed. It's time to investigate. Conditions: Migraine, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, back pain, neck pain, nerve pain, undiagnosed Symptoms: Fatigue, anxiety, depression, stiffness, unrefreshing sleep, difficulty sleeping, weakness, numbness, tenderness, muscle pain, joint pain, pain, restlessness Triggers: Treatments: ...

Read the Sleep Comfortably article > >

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 treatments.

What does a physical therapist do?

Your 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.

Physical therapy almost always includes exercise. It can include stretching, core exercises, weight lifting, and walking. Your physical therapist may teach you an exercise program so you can do it at home.

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:

  • Back and neck pain.
  • Cardiac rehabilitation (rehab).
  • Wound care.
  • Cancer-related problems.
  • Treatment of children or older adults.

Here are some questions to think about before you choose a physical therapist:

  • Can your doctor suggest one?
  • Do you need a referral from your doctor? Some states require this.
  • Will your insurance company pay for your physical therapy?

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 14, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
1
Next Article:

Today on WebMD

pain in brain and nerves
Top causes and how to find relief.
knee exercise
8 exercises for less knee pain.
 
acupuncture needles in woman's back
How it helps arthritis, migraines, and dental pain.
chronic pain
Get personalized tips to reduce discomfort.
 
illustration of nerves in hand
Slideshow
lumbar spine
Slideshow
 
Woman opening window
Slideshow
Man holding handful of pills
Video
 
Woman shopping for vegetables
Slideshow
Sore feet with high heel shoes
Slideshow
 
acupuncture needles in woman's back
Slideshow
man with a migraine
Slideshow