6 Reasons You May Need Physical Therapy

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Chris Illiades, MD on October 23, 2020
  • man-at-physical-therapy-getting-leg-stretched
    An Integral Part of Rehabilitation and Recovery
    If you've had a recent injury or surgery, physical therapy (PT) may be an important part of your recovery. Your doctor may prescribe PT to improve your movement. PT can also help reduce pain, speed healing, and prevent stiffness or weakness that could lead to a disability. Physical therapy also helps you stay fit while you recover. Here are common ailments that PT can help.
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    1. Neck Pain
    A neck injury or neck surgery can leave you with pain in your neck. You might avoid moving it for fear of more pain or further injury, but this can lead to stiffness. You might have numbness, tingling or weakness in your arms, too. Physical therapy may be the best treatment for these symptoms. Your PT may include exercises to strengthen the muscles that support your neck. Stretching may be part of the plan to prevent stiffness. A physical therapist can also show you how to use ice and massage to help ease pain and swelling.
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    2. Back Pain
    Low back pain is so common that almost everyone will have it at some point. It's one of the most common reasons people get physical therapy. Back pain often stems from an injury caused by lifting or twisting that damages one of the discs between your spinal bones. Healthy discs act as cushions. PT will help strengthen the muscles of your lower back while you heal. You may also do stretching exercise and use heat, ice or massage—or a combination of these—to help relieve pain and swelling.
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    3. Strains
    A strain is an injury to a muscle or tendon. Tendons are the tough tissues that connect muscles to bone. A strain is another common reason people get physical therapy. A strain means a tendon or muscle has been stretched or torn. This often happens during sports. A strain can cause pain, weakness, and muscle spasm. PT starts after pain and swelling improve. PT exercises for strains include stretching and strengthening to prevent stiffness and speed healing.
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    4. Sprains
    A sprain is an injury to a ligament. That's tissue that connects one bone to another. These injuries usually occur at a joint, like your ankle or wrist. Ligament sprains include stretches and tears. Falls and trips are common causes. Pain and swelling are the main symptoms. You might need a few weeks of physical therapy before you can return to full activity after a sprain. Starting PT early on can help speed the recovery period.
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    5. Severe Knee Injuries
    A bad injury to your knee may require surgery. Healing from knee surgery usually includes physical therapy. You'll have swelling after the surgery. So, PT tends to start after the swelling has gone down. Most people do PT for several weeks. Expect to learn exercises to both move and strengthen the muscles around your knee. These exercises will help you recover. They'll also help prevent arthritis in your knee joint.
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    6. Dislocated Shoulder
    Your shoulder is the most moveable joint in your body. It's a ball-and-socket joint. The top of your upper arm bone forms the ball. It sits in a shallow socket made by your shoulder blade. Dislocating this joint is a common reason for physical therapy. PT will start after your shoulder joint is back in place. A physical therapist will work with you on an exercise program to ease you back into full movement and prevent future dislocations.
6 Reasons You May Need Physical Therapy

About The Author

  1. Role of Physical Therapist. American Physical Therapy Association. http://www.apta.org/PTCareers/RoleofaPT/
  2. Boyles R, Toy P, Mellon J Jr, Hayes M, and Hammer B. Effectiveness of manual physical therapy in the treatment of cervical radiculopathy: a systematic review. J Man Manip Ther. 2011 Aug; 19(3): 135–142.
  3. Low Back Pain. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00311
  4. Sprains and Strains. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. http://www.niams.nih.gov/health_info/sprains_strains/sprains_and_strains_ff.asp
  5. Knee Arthroscopy. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00299
  6. Dislocated Shoulder. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00035
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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Oct 23
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.