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.
Physical therapy can help with recovery after most surgeries. Your doctor may suggest physical therapy for injuries or long-term health problems such as:
Tendon or ligament problems, such as an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury, a meniscus tear, or plantar fasciitis
Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis
Physical therapy may be used alone or with other treatments. You may get physical therapy at:
A nursing home
Your own home, through home health agencies
A sports or fitness setting
What does a physical therapist do?
Your physical therapist will examine you and make a treatment plan. Depending on your health problem, your therapist will help you with flexibility, strength, endurance, coordination, and/or balance. First, your therapist will try to reduce your pain and swelling. Then he or she will probably work to increase your flexibility, strength, and endurance.
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. 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 therapist are board-certified in areas such as orthopedics, sports, geriatrics, and neurology and may offer more specialized care. Physical therapists can specialize in:
Muscles, joints, tendons, ligaments, and bones
Nerves and related muscles
The heart and blood vessels
Lung problems and breathing
Skin problems, including wounds and burns
Treatment for children, older adults, or women
Here are some questions to think about when choosing a physical therapist:
Can your doctor suggest one?
Do you need a referral from your doctor? Some states require this.
What type of pain are you having?
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