5 Things You Didn’t Know Physical Therapists Treat

physical therapist assist a woman with exercise while using a yoga ball

This is the time of year when many of us start to consider goals and resolutions for the new year ahead. At Therapeutic Associates Physical Therapy, we encourage you to plan with an open mind. Think innovatively and explore different ideas for improving your health and well-being. Consider this an ideal opportunity to reflect on the myriad ways PT can help you achieve those resolutions and reach your goals. Physical therapists play a versatile role in modern healthcare, offering a broad array of services that can benefit a wide range of people in various ways, some of which you may not know.

5 things you probably didn't know a physical therapist could do.

Prevent injuries or PREHAB

Why wait until you are hurt or in pain to come in to see us? Do you want to improve your athletic performance? Maybe you’re starting a couch-to-5K workout program, or you just joined the local roller derby team and want to make sure you’re not getting in over your head. Are you dreaming of powder days at your local ski and snowboard resort and want to be sure an injury doesn’t sideline you for the season?

Perhaps you simply want to enjoy your days at home with optimized fitness so you can tackle tasks without worrying about hurting yourself or causing pain to set in and linger for days.

A physical therapist can evaluate your movement patterns, mobility, and strength to determine if you may be susceptible to injuries. If you are at risk, they will help you develop a program designed to address your specific vulnerabilities and improve your chances of having a spectacular season or active retirement.

Learn more about our sports therapy programs today!

bright orange coat skier on untouched powder slope

Improve your sense of well-being by teaching you how to breathe better

Who would have thought that we can influence how we feel by being aware of how we breathe? When we breathe, we use a large muscle called the diaphragm which separates your chest from your abdominal cavity and has connections to your vagus nerve. The cool thing about this is that the vagus nerve, when stimulated (mainly during exhalation), increases activity in the parasympathetic nervous system. “What system?” you ask, and “Why does this matter?”

The parasympathetic nervous system is a vast network of nerve fibers that have connections from your brain to various organs in your body. It is mainly responsible for the rest and digest actions of our body, contributing to a reduction in your sense of anxiety, stress, and muscle tension, among other things.

A physical therapist who is a specialist in breathing dysfunction can teach techniques to harness the power of the diaphragm and vagus nerve, stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system, and resulting in better overall mental well-being.

Amazingly, this is only the tip of the iceberg! Learn about our Breathworks program and how PT can help.

Crack your back

Patients frequently say they didn’t know we could “crack” their backs just like a chiropractor. In fact, physical therapists have always been performing manipulations when appropriate. Research demonstrates that, under the right circumstances, this targeted, hands-on approach can dramatically increase the chances of recovery from back pain while also improving the range of motion and overall function of the spine.

Your PT will conduct a thorough assessment to evaluate your medical history, the specific nature of your back pain, and any contributing factors such as posture, muscle imbalances, or joint mobility issues. Once the assessment leads to a clear understanding of the root cause of your back pain, if appropriate your PT will perform precise and controlled manual manipulations on the affected areas of your spine. These manipulations involve applying controlled force to the joints, typically through specific techniques such as spinal adjustments or mobilizations.

It’s important to note that physical therapists are highly trained to perform these manipulations safely. If you begin physical therapy within 14 days after the onset of your back pain, have no symptoms below the knee, and a few other key factors that the physical therapist can evaluate, you are 20 times more likely to have a successful outcome within two visits. Who wouldn’t want that?

Learn more about back and neck pain care and get started today!

physical therapist works on patient's back

Understand your dizziness and/or imbalance issues

Have you ever had an episode of dizziness and didn’t know why? Have you found that over time, your balance is not as great as it used to be? These symptoms can lead to decreased activity levels, anxiety, and a more sedentary lifestyle. With a thorough examination by your physical therapist, you may benefit from vestibular rehabilitation therapy.

The vestibular system is composed of parts of the inner ear, related nerves, and the brain which processes sensory information regarding balance and eye movements. Vestibular dysfunction is a major risk factor for falls.

Many factors can affect these issues, including age related degeneration of inner ear structures, medications (i.e., some antibiotics), head injuries, or potentially serious neurological conditions like stroke. Depending on the diagnosis, your therapist may perform some repositioning maneuvers. You may also be instructed in exercises designed to retrain the brain to adjust for disorienting signals, create new strategies to maintain balance, decrease dizziness, and improve your quality of life.

Successful vestibular therapy can take as few as 1-2 sessions!

Reduce your persistent discomfort without even touching you.

Nothing seems to be working. You are stressed and anxious. You don’t know if this will ever get any better – even the doctors don’t know what is going on. Does this sound familiar?

Research shows that, in order to treat individuals with more complex issues, we need to begin to look at the psycho-social model (beliefs, fears, “the stories that we hold”) first before movement therapy. The way you think about pain can change how it feels.

What would this look like? It may take the form of sitting down for a brief period with your therapist one-on-one. They may use a booklet, slides, or even videos to assist. They will cover important concepts such as what pain is, factors that can influence it, how your body’s response/alarm system has become sensitized, and most importantly, what can be done to calm it down.

Understanding that your discomfort experience is influenced by your nervous system and how your brain processes pain will allow you to move better, think about your persistent discomfort differently, and push your physical comfort zone further. 

Learn more about how pain neuroscience can impact chronic pain.

physical therapist coaches a woman on therapeutic exercise in the clinic

Start your PT journey today.

From injury recovery to achieving optimal performance, our passion is to help every patient reach their goals and live an active, pain-free life. 

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