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What is Physical Therapy?

By Alan Williams, PT, OTR/L, ATC, CSCS

During my first semester of college, I was an accounting major. I don’t know why. I think it was a social requirement in the 1970s for every college student to major in accounting at least once. By second semester, however, I was ready to try something I was actually interested in, so I changed to music, one of two main passions in my life. Although I enjoyed the studies, the negatively competitive atmosphere of the classes wore me down, and by the end of my second school year, I needed another change. I switched to sports, my other passion, and decided to be a coach. Then in the midst of my kinesiology classes, I enrolled in a course called “Athletic Injuries and Conditioning.” I was fascinated, and it set me on my path to becoming a teacher, then an athletic trainer, and finally, a physical therapist.

What is physical therapy? As defined by the World Confederation of Physical Therapy, “physical therapy provides services…to develop, maintain and restore maximum movement and functional ability throughout the lifespan. Physical therapy is concerned with identifying and maximizing quality of life and movement potential within the spheres of promotion, prevention, treatment/intervention, habilitation and rehabilitation.” So what does this really mean? Not only can physical therapy help you recover faster and stronger after an injury or illness than simply rest alone, it can also help to insure your ability to move remains as strong as possible throughout your life by utilizing preventative treatments and exercises. As I always tell my patients, my goal as a PT is to get you better and back to your life as quickly as possible.

Recognition of the need for physical therapy goes back as far as Hippocrates. Throughout the ages, health practitioners have long seen the benefits to this type of treatment. Physical therapy is a proactive, safe, drug-free, and non-invasive way to treat the injuries, aches, pains, and degenerative conditions that afflict all of us from time to time, especially as we get older. It’s good both before and after – in addition to aiding your recovery after a problem, PTs can teach you how to prevent problems before they occur, which helps to increase independence and quality of life for people of all ages.

Attending physical therapy is a little like combining a visit to the doctor’s office with a trip to the health club. On your first visit, you will receive an initial evaluation wherein your PT will assess your current symptoms, including pain levels, movement capabilities, etc. Once a diagnosis is arrived at, a plan for your recovery will be formulated. Your following visits will consist of exercises designed for your specific needs and ability levels, pain and inflammation control (such as electric stimulation, ultrasound, or temperature therapy), and any additional manual or hands-on therapy that may be required (such as traction, massage, etc.) And once you reach your recovery goal, you become a physical therapy graduate!

You don’t have to face life’s aches and pains alone. Visit your physical therapist today for a safe, proactive approach to your recovery, or call 463-0022 for your FREE Pain Assessment!

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