What Happens When Your Doctor Recommends Physical Therapy

If you’re like me, you do your best to stay in shape and try new things in order to achieve your goals. A few months ago, I had a burst of motivation and decided to ramp up my regular jogging while enrolling in tennis lessons and regular matches.

Unfortunately, I overlooked some of the key elements important to beginning a new fitness regime. Well, actually, I decided to charge full speed ahead instead of slowly integrating new activity into my workout routine. I also didn’t listen to my body when it started to feel pain from working too hard. I didn’t slow down, until my body finally made me.

The result was an injury that wasn’t serious enough to require surgery but not mild enough to go away with home remedies or over-the-counter pain relievers. Instead, my doctor recommended rest and six weeks of physical therapy.

Physical TherapyWhat Is Physical Therapy?
Physical therapy is a treatment that is usually completed over the course of several weeks or months that can help you to improve movement and relieve pain. It can be recommended following an injury, after surgery or to help manage a chronic condition.  After completing physical therapy, you’ll likely be able to complete daily tasks much more easily and with less pain. More importantly, you’ll have the building blocks necessary to better manage your condition or injury so that you can continue to improve on your own and avoid further injury.

Do I Need Physical Therapy?
If you’ve experienced a non-urgent injury, you’ll want to see your regular doctor or primary care physician (PCP) first. Your doctor can evaluate you to determine the best course for treatment.  Depending on the extent of your injury, you may need surgery or you may be able to treat your injury at home.

The same is true if you have a chronic condition that impairs your mobility. Your doctor or PCP will first evaluate you to determine if physical therapy is right for you.

My Doctor Prescribed Physical Therapy. Now What?
If your doctor has referred you to a physical therapist, your next step is to schedule a visit with them for an evaluation. This may take place in a doctor’s office or in your own home. During your first visit, your physical therapist will examine you and develop a plan of care that is specific to your body and needs. Their treatments will help you to reduce pain, restore or improve function, increase your mobility and help prevent disability.

Your therapist will work to reduce swelling in your muscles and joints. This may include massage therapy, ultrasound, heat, cold, and educating you about additional techniques you can try on your own.

Your therapist will also likely use exercise to help you improve. This could include stretching, walking, weight lifting, or resistance training. They’ll be able to monitor your movements within an office setting or in your home and help ensure that you are using the correct technique. They also will likely prescribe exercises for you to do on your own time.

Gym TherapyThese exercises may change over the course of your treatment and will likely become a part of your regular post-treatment life. While you’ll be able to feel the benefits of physical therapy throughout the course of your treatment, one of the goals of physical therapy is to give you the tools to better manage your condition and prevent further injury.

Life after Physical Therapy
After you complete your therapy sessions, your physical therapist will give you additional instructions for integrating what you’ve learned into your regular life. This may be stretches and exercises to do every day or rules for easing back in to regular activity.

Following these instructions will help you to get the most out of your physical therapy sessions. For me, this was an important step in getting back into my workout routine. It can also help prevent against further injury or pain.

For more information, visit the American Physical Therapy Association.

Sources: American Physical therapy Association, Mayo Clinic, WebMD

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