Physical Therapy FAQs
What is physical and occupational therapy?
Physical and occupational therapy is a treatment that may be needed when health problems make it hard to move around and do everyday tasks. Its goal is to improve physical function wherever it may limit daily activities. For example, therapy can help you to walk without a limp or run a race without pain; it can help you to reach up to a shelf or pitch a curveball; it can help you grasp a pen or type on a keyboard. Often, therapy can address a health issue so that surgery is not necessary. However, when surgery is required, therapy can make recovery quicker, smoother, and more complete.
Evergreen Orthopedic Physical Therapy is an outpatient clinic that focuses on musculoskeletal issues, or those affecting the muscles and joints. Our physical therapists concentrate on the legs, back and upper arms to restore gross motor function such as reaching or running. Our occupational therapists treat the elbow to the fingers to improve fine motor function such as gripping or writing. Examples of the many conditions we treat include:
- Tendon or ligament problems such as tendinitis, sprains, anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears, rotator cuff tendon tears, and plantar fasciitis
- Cartilage problems such as arthritis, meniscus tears in the knee or labrum tears in the shoulder
- Back-related problems, such as sciatica, spinal stenosis, or disc bulges in the spine
- Nerve problems such as radiculopathy or carpal tunnel syndrome
What does a therapist do?
Your therapist has extensive training in anatomy and physiology, studies of the human body’s structure and function. Your therapist will examine you and develop a treatment plan customized to your needs in these areas. Depending on your health issue, your therapist will help you by relieving pain and swelling, reducing stiffness, increasing endurance and strength, improving balance and coordination, addressing posture or biomechanical form (in other words, how your body parts move together) problems, and developing your fitness.
Physical and occupational therapy includes a variety of treatment types, including therapeutic exercise, “hands-on” procedures, education, and treatments called modalities.
Therapeutic exercise is a foundation of many treatment programs. It involves supervised exercise in the clinic as well as a home exercise program. Your exercise program will be tailored to your specific needs, as determined in your initial therapy evaluation. Therapists instruct and monitor proper exercise form. Exercise may train your endurance, strength, flexibility, gait form, or balance to help your body adapt to the stresses experienced in the course of your day.
“Hands-on” techniques, include joint or soft tissue mobilizations and stretching performed by the therapist to increase tissue flexibility, reduce tension, or alleviate pain.
Education will be provided by the therapist regarding how to protect a healing injury or surgery, how to prevent reoccurrence of an injury, how to safely perform potentially hazardous tasks (such as lifting), and how to maintain a healthy posture.
Modalities, such as ultrasound, electrical stimulation, heating or icing can reduce pain or increase the rate of healing.
Why does a surgeon prescribe therapy?
Therapy can be used either instead of, prior to, and/or after a surgery. Your doctor may prescribe therapy instead of surgery, to attempt to treat an injury with a less invasive and more conservative approach. For example, the pain and weakness of a tendon tear can often be relieved by strengthening surrounding muscle tissue, making the surgery unnecessary. But some injuries are so extensive that surgery is needed. In these cases, therapy may still be used. Before surgery, therapy can condition the body to minimize the post-surgical recovery time. For example, joints often tighten immediately after surgery. Therefore, stretching them before the surgery will maximize their flexibility ahead of time, leaving less recovery work after the surgery is done. Finally, therapy is often used after surgery to speed recovery time and prevent complications. For example, after knee replacement surgery, therapy can properly stretch and strengthen leg muscles to ensure that walking form is normal, preventing the development of tendonitis.
What can you expect to happen during your therapy session?
Your first visit will be an evaluation. In the evaluation, you’ll be interviewed about your injury, other health issues that may impact your rehabilitation, and your goals for your recovery. Next, your therapist will complete clinical tests needed to assess your injury, such as measuring your strength and flexibility. The results of these tests will determine which exercises and treatments are most appropriate for you. The remainder of the first session will be spent on some initial treatment, often focusing on exercise instruction to begin your home exercise program. This “homework” helps progress your recovery between therapy sessions. It is an important part of making your rehabilitation as rapid as possible.
Subsequent sessions will emphasize treatment, with periodic measurements taken to track your progress. Treatment can span 1 – 2 visits or even several weeks, depending on your condition. Your therapist will regularly update your doctor regarding your status.
Therapy sessions usually last about an hour. You should come to therapy in clothing comfortable enough for exercise, including loose-fitting clothing or shorts if you are recovering from a leg injury.
Like many things in life, what you get out of therapy relies on what you put into it. Regular attendance, active participation, and faithful completion of your home exercise program can help you get back to the life you had before your injury.