6 Surprising Facts About Physical Therapy

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    Get Smart About Physical Therapy
    You might think that physical therapy (PT) is just for people who need to get back on their feet after an injury or surgery. Or that physical therapists are simply exercise experts. You might think that PT only happens at a hospital or rehabilitation center. None of these are true. In fact, there are a lot of things you might not know about physical therapy. Here are six.

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    1. Physical therapists are healthcare specialists.
    Physical therapists are healthcare providers with special training. They must have a license to practice. They have the designation "PT" after their name. Many physical therapists get extra training. They then get licensed in one of eight areas by the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialists. PT specialties include electrotherapy, geriatrics, women’s health, pediatrics, neurology, heart and lung disease, sports, and orthopedics. Some physical therapists continue training to get a doctoral degree (DPT) or other advanced degree.

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    2. Physical therapy can treat pain with mirrors.
    People who lose an arm or leg often experience what's called phantom limb pain. The pain feels like it's coming from the limb that is no longer there. This pain can last for years. A physical therapist may be able to trick the patient’s brain into turning off the pain. The therapist uses mirrors to make it look like the lost limb is moving while the patient is really using the existing limb. It's called mirror box therapy. It can be an effective treatment for phantom limb pain.

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    3. Physical therapy can help children with autism.
    Autism spectrum disorder includes many symptoms and behaviors that may respond to PT. For instance, PT may help children who have posture problems. It may help with hand-eye coordination. Children who have trouble controlling their body movement may benefit from PT, too. A physical therapist can create a plan to improve motor skills and coordination. It may include play skills. The therapist can help the child learn things that others learn naturally. Riding a bike or running and jumping are examples.

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    4. Physical therapy can help people with Alzheimer’s disease.
    Physical therapy is one of the few treatments that may slow down the effects of Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s is a disease that destroys brain cells. It changes the way people speak, think and act. PT for this condition includes healthy and safe exercise. This is important because exercise may have a role in preserving memory. Physical therapy can also help people with early Alzheimer's handle day-to-day activities. This may let them stay independent longer.

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    5. Physical therapists make house calls.
    Most people today don't have doctors who make house calls. However, physical therapists often treat people at home. In fact, home health is an important part of PT. People who need home care may be recovering from surgery. They may be children with disabilities. They may be elderly people who are homebound. Home care may include PT after joint replacement surgery, a stroke, wound infections, incontinence, heart disease, and COPD.

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    6. You can seek physical therapy on your own.
    People often see a physical therapist because their doctor prescribed PT for them. But, you don’t need a doctor’s referral to get this treatment unless your health insurance requires that for you to get coverage. Many physical therapists work in private offices. You can simply call and make an appointment. You don’t need to be recovering from a major trauma or illness. Instead, you might have a nagging injury or lingering pain. Check with a therapist to see if PT might help.

6 Surprising Facts About Physical Therapy

About The Author

  1. American Physical Therapy Association. Choosing Your Physical Therapist. http://www.moveforwardpt.com/Resources/Choose.aspx
  2. Physical Therapists Guide to Phantom Limb pain. American Physical Therapy Association. http://www.moveforwardpt.com/SymptomsConditionsDetail.aspx?cid=86b63d81-5bd3-4259-961e-d21dd7519c06
  3. Physical Therapist’s Guide to Autism Spectrum Disorder. American Physical Therapy Association. http://www.moveforwardpt.com/SymptomsConditionsDetail.aspx?cid=a6482e75-65c6-4c1f-be36-5f4a847b2042
  4. Physical Therapist’s Guide to Alzheimer’s Disease. American Physical Therapy Association. http://www.moveforwardpt.com/SymptomsConditionsDetail.aspx?cid=48d29ec1-3159-45d3-bf6e-ea31ab7c978a
  5. Practice Areas. American Physical Therapy Association. http://www.moveforwardpt.com/ForHealthCareProfessionals/Detail/practice-areas
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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Oct 24
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.