6 Myths about Physical Therapy

Physical therapy has several misconceptions about it and everyone has a different view of what physical therapy is.  Physical therapy helps people live a healthy, active life without pain, pills or surgery and can help them return to the activities they enjoy the most.  Perhaps you have heard some horror stories from a friend that went to physical therapy or you don’t know much about it and are hesitant to give it a try.  Regardless, if you are on the fence about whether or not physical therapy can help you get better, faster and do the activities that are important to you, read these myths about it:

All you do is exercise at physical therapy.  In my experience, people tend to think that physical therapy only involves exercises.  I think the reason people think this way is because they have perhaps experienced this in physical therapy.  Unfortunately, this isn’t a true representation of physical therapy and all of the ways we can help people.  I have found that most people respond well to a mixture of hands-on treatment to improve mobility and decrease pain with exercise to strengthen, stabilize and retrain the body.  It’s also common to teach people modifications for their daily activities or work in order to help them stay out of pain long term.  Exercise alone can help you get better but it will take longer and may not help you get better completely.

It’s the same as getting a massage.  While there are some similarities between massage and physical therapy, they are not the same…nowhere close to the same actually.  Physical therapists are trained in diagnostic skills to determine the root cause of an issue which allows them to appropriately treat the issue and get people back to activity.  Both use hands on techniques but physical therapists work in a more specific manner to resolve an injury.  While massage is great to help a person relax and reduce tension in the muscles, physical therapy can address the root cause of that issue and help you get rid of that muscle tension long term.

Physical therapy should also incorporate other treatment techniques to help you long term so you don’t need to continue seeing them for “massage”.  I also feel the need to put in this disclaimer because I have encountered massage therapists doing this types of things that they are DEFINITELY not trained to do…a massage therapist should not be doing joint mobilizations or manipulations and they also should not be doing internal pelvic floor releases (yes internal…I said that correctly).

Physical therapists enjoy inflicting pain.  Story time…when I was a student in physical therapy school I did a clinical at an outpatient clinic that treated a variety of orthopedic injuries.  The owner of this clinic had a pet peeve when patients would joke about their “P.T. – Pain and Torture”.  When someone would say those words to him, I thought his eyes were going to bug right out of his head!  He then would go on for about 15 minutes about the importance of physical therapy not being painful and that if you have pain, that is not a good thing.  This story has also stuck with me and I find myself telling it over and over again at my clinic.  Physical therapists (most of them anyways) went into this profession to help people and help people get out of pain.  We don’t like to see our patients suffering and we don’t want to cause more pain!  While there are some exceptions to this, we definitely do not enjoy inflicting pain on our patients.

It’s only for people after having surgery.  This is probably one of the biggest misconceptions about physical therapy (second to #1 above).  Physical therapy began to grow after World War 1 in order to care for wounded soldiers and help them recover.  Over the course of 100 years, it has significantly evolved to be so much more with a variety of specialties including pediatrics, women’s health, sports, wound care, neurological and orthopedic.

Research has shown physical therapy to be beneficial in preventing injuries, healing injuries without surgery, and also improving function with those dealing with physical limitations.  With all of the advances in the different specialties of physical therapy, it can help people dealing with many different limitations.  There is also research that shows the benefit of physical therapy prior to surgery in order to have better surgical outcomes.  I personally work with a large number of women suffering from incontinence, pelvic pain, and pelvic organ prolapse to help them be active without feeling embarrassed or being in pain.  It’s not just surgical rehab, it’s so much more!

You can just find some exercises online.  If it’s on the internet, it must be true, right?!?  Unfortunately there is a lot of misinformation out there on the internet on how to treat a specific injury or perform certain exercises.  And there are also some really great resources online but they might not be good for every person.  This can lead to a lot of confusion on what you should or shouldn’t do and might end up with you not doing any of them at all then.  For example, if you have arthritis in your back, it might not be good to arch backwards to stretch yet many articles online list that as a “stretch for back pain”.  It’s ALWAYS a good idea to have your issue evaluated by a trained physical therapist and then get a specific set of exercises that are right for you.

They’re all created equal.  Every physical therapist is different in their strengths, skillset, and experiences.  We have all developed different skills which is why there are different specialties within physical therapy.  For example, my specialties don’t include infants so I wouldn’t be the best physical therapist to treat little babies.  If you have tried physical therapy in the past and haven’t had success, perhaps trying a different physical therapist would help since we all have a different way of approaching an issue.

If you have more questions or concerns about whether or not physical therapy might be able to get you back to what you love quickly, feel free to fill out the below form to talk to one of our physical therapists.

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