Physical Therapy Overview

People besides athletes may need physical therapy. Anyone can get into an accident, slip on something like ice or stairs or develop a chronic illness. Chronic conditions may start for any reason, including genetics, already having other medical issues and complications from surgery.

The simple act of sitting causes pain in some people, especially when they sit for prolonged periods of time without stretching or moving around. Furthermore, you may shift in your sleep and not even realize that causes injury or harm. The wrong pillow or mattress type may also make conditions worse.

Additionally, as people age, they may develop frail bones or arthritis. The elderly become prone to falling, but a fall could happen at any age because a fall is a type of accident.

Sample List of Conditions that Require Physical Therapy

People may need PT for a wide variety of acute and chronic conditions. Some of those include:

  • Neurological Conditions – People who suffer from migraines, chronic daily headaches or cluster headaches may need PT. When headaches get to the chronic stage, PT becomes a viable option. Physical therapists also treat pain and balance issues related to Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and strokes.
  • Sports-related Injuries – Physical therapists treat a wide variety of sports-related injuries including sprains, concussions and tendonitis. They often treat a common condition called tennis elbow.
  • Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs) – These conditions affect joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, and the structures used to support your limbs. Common examples include temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ), shoulder injuries, including a torn rotator cuff, carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS), and back or neck injuries.
  • Pelvic Pain – Women and men may suffer from pelvic floor dysfunction or other forms of pelvic pain. Women who suffer from endometriosis or conditions like vulvodynia often need pelvic floor therapy. Men who have prostate issues may benefit from this form of therapy too.</li>

Back pain accounts for one of the most common reasons people visit a doctor and may need PT. In fact, up to 80% of people, no matter their age, will suffer from back pain at some in their lives.

Back pain may occur from:

  • Working out
  • Sitting for prolonged periods of time
  • Standing for long periods of time
  • Injury
  • Complications from surgery
  • Chronic illness and pain
  • Sleeping in a harmful position

PTs often educate people on how to properly bend and walk to correct back issues and neck pain. Additionally, many illnesses and conditions have overlapping symptoms. For example, people with fibromyalgia may have muscle spasms, migraines, TMJ, digestive issues and sleep disturbances. All of those symptoms contribute to back pain.

Length of Treatment

The length of PT will vary depending on the condition(s) being treated. Some people need PT after suffering from an acute injury. Others need PT on and off to manage flare-ups caused by chronic conditions like intractable back pain, osteoporosis and arthritis.

Your referring doctor, physical therapist or insurance company may determine the number of visits you need. Insurance companies allow a certain number of visits per year.

In general, attend PT until you meet your goals or have maxed out the number of sessions your insurance covered. It takes around six to eight weeks for the tissue to heal, but people recover differently and times may vary. If a patient feels a treatment plan does not meet the stated goals and needs, speak to your physical therapist. Your therapist will modify the plan and make adjustments.

Physical Therapy Should Not Hurt

Physical therapy should not harm or hurt you. You may experience some discomfort, but that often happens when undergoing any form of rehabilitation. If anything becomes unbearable, inform your therapist.

Ability to Treat the Body as a Whole

Physical therapists understand how to treat your body as a whole. An injury or ongoing condition often affects multiple areas of the body.

For example, foot pain usually has multiple causes. You may need PT after suffering a fracture. However, foot pain may occur from plantar fasciitis, a bad gait and instability in your ankles. Your physical therapist will assess your posture, how you walk, and any other factors that will help determine the root cause of your pain.

Suitable Treatment for All Ages

Physical therapists treat patients of all ages. A study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) verified the efficacy of PT, even noting that physical therapy works for critically-ill patients staying in an intensive-care unit of a hospital. The study also discovered that choosing PT as the first form of treatment saved people 72% in treatment costs over the span of the first year.

Improve Mental Health

Anxiety, depression and other mental health disorders may develop as a result of injury, ongoing illness or chronic pain. Reducing or eliminating pain, improving balance, regaining mobility and improving quality of life are all goals of physical therapy.

By working on the goals, and recognizing how they affect mental health, patients may gain the confidence they need to return to work, if possible, and get back to their normal routines.

Ongoing exercise, even low-impact, often improves mental health. Some of the manual techniques used by physical therapists provide patients with therapeutic touch. This may help people who have limited social interactions because of pain, injury and ongoing illness.

Assessment Prior to Treatment

Before beginning treatment, a physical therapist may verify your benefits with your insurance provider, unless you pay for the sessions yourself. While specialists often refer patients to PT, some insurance companies no longer require scripts from physicians. Therefore, you have the ability to seek treatment on your own, which has the potential to make PT more accessible.

At your first visit, your physical therapist will gather information before starting treatment. You should expect your therapist to:

  • Conduct an examination
  • Discuss your medical history to see if any contributing factors play a role in treating your condition or injury
  • Review your doctor’s script and any clinical notes (if provided)
  • Gather your short-term and long-term goals
  • Discuss approaches to treatment
  • Adjust crutches or a cane if needed – PTs know how to align them with your height, and they will show you how to properly use them.
  • Implement your PT plan
  • Make recommendations, so you may manage your symptoms at home

Forms of Treatment

Physical therapy takes a well-balanced approach to health and overall well-being. Treatment sessions may involve the following:

  • Stimulation – This method uses electrodes to send pulses to the injured area(s). The stimulation may help decrease pain and increase mobility. While many PTs use specialized equipment, they may recommend using a transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) unit outside of the sessions. TENS devices are small, so you may wear them anywhere.
  • Heat – This increases circulation and helps injured tissue recover. PTs use hot packs, which feature moist heat. PTs may use hot packs with stimulation. PTs wrap the hot pack in a towel and place it on the affected area.
  • Ice – While people often use ice after an injury to decrease swelling, ice has other benefits. It helps with inflammation and decreases pain.
  • Contrast Therapy – This method alternates the use of ice and heat, usually for 15-20 minute intervals.
  • Ultrasound – PTs place gel on the area in need of treatment and then use a wand over that area. Ultrasound helps improve circulation, and the heating mechanism reduces pain and swelling in joints, muscles, tendons and tissues. Some PTs may use an anti-inflammatory steroid medication with ultrasound to further reduce inflammation.
  • Massage – PTs work on trigger points and knots in your muscles. Massage improves circulation, decreases muscle spasms and reduces pain. The type of massage will depend on your condition and the pressure your therapist needs to apply to treat it.
  • Joint Mobilization – PTs manually move joints to help increase range of motion and mobility.
  • Stretching – After a massage, PTs may manually stretch the injury or affected area. Manual stretching may help with hip, neck and back pain. It also helps prepare you for exercise.
  • Exercise – Physical therapists implement an exercise routine to help manage chronic conditions, recondition after an injury and improve overall strength and endurance. For example, if you have gone to PT to recover from a broken foot, your physical therapist may have you use a treadmill or stationary bike. They also have a variety of weights to help other conditions like neck pain.
  • Trigger Point Release – PTs press on a trigger point that causes pain in an attempt to briefly cut off circulation to the surrounding tissue. This helps improve circulation, and PTs perform this in an attempt to reduce muscle spasms, which often cause the pain.
  • Myofascial Release – During this form of treatment, PTs apply pressure to release tension in connective tissues, referred to as fascia. Therapists use this to treat chronic pain in areas like the jaw, back, neck and head.
  • Traction – This is used in the treatment of low back and neck pain to help decrease pain levels and improve mobility in the spine. Traction works by separating the joints and affected discs to decrease pressure on your spine.
  • Iontophoresis – Therapists use medicine like cortisone, which falls into the steroid category, in conjunction with stimulation. They do this to help reduce joint inflammation.
  • Laser or Light Therapy – This helps heal injured tissue. PTs use this method for chronic pain or for healing a wound. Your therapist uses a wand and places it directly over your sore body part. Then, your therapist pushes a button to activate the light.
  • Taping – Kinesiology tape is specialized tape made of flexible fabric that moves with you, and it holds up when exposed to water. It restricts muscle movement, helps bruising, aids swelling, and assists with pain management since it limits your movement. While you may attempt to tape yourself, a physical therapist knows where to place the tape, so it moves with your body. People who have irritated skin or suffer from eczema or other skin issues should avoid this method.

Specialized Therapy Services

The ASTYM System

The ASTYM System is a rehabilitation treatment that provides a breakthrough in the way soft tissue injuries are treated. The system identifies and treats abnormal soft tissue, tapping into the body’s natural healing process to enable rapid return to activity, free from pain and limitation.

Research has shown that in many cases of chronic tendinitis, the tissue is not inflamed but is degenerative. Most treatments ignore these soft tissue dysfunctions, and therefore are not effective for treating the problems that result from them.

The remarkable success of the ASTYM System is due to the fact that it directly addresses dysfunctional soft tissue, the underlying source of many problems.

Fascial Distortion Model

Fascial Distortion Model (FDM) was developed by Dr. Stephen Typaldos, DO. It’s a treatment model in which virtually all soft tissue injuries, or musculoskeletal complaints, are viewed through one or more of the six different types of alterations to the body’s connective tissues. The patient’s verbal and physical descriptions, coupled with the mechanism of injury and relevant orthopedic tests, will lead the practitioner to the proper form of soft tissue treatment.

Reduce Chance of Re-injury or Improve a Chronic Condition with Home-Based Exercise

You must take steps to avoid further complications when you reintroduce exercise into your routine. As mentioned, therapists formulate customized exercise plans. They will:

  1. Discuss the exercises and why you need them
  2. Demonstrate how to perform them
  3. Watch you perform the assigned exercises
  4. Make corrections to things like form and posture if needed
  5. Make modifications to the overall exercise plan if needed
  6. Provide you with a handout of recommended exercises – The handout usually contains pictures and short descriptions. Use this as an aid to help you properly perform the exercises at home.
  7. Make equipment suggestions – Your physical therapist has the expertise to recommend any equipment so you get the most out of your home-based exercise plan.

Overview of Physical Therapists

Physical therapists (PTs) are trained medical professionals who undergo schooling to learn about subjects like biology, anatomy, physiology, kinesiology and neuroscience. They also study the musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, endocrine and pulmonary systems. Physical therapists may work in clinics, physician’s offices, hospitals, nursing homes, and in a home-care setting.

Goals of Physical Therapy

Physical therapists help people recover from injuries. They also help manage chronic illness and treat ongoing pain. Physical therapy (PT) is often used in conjunction with treatment protocols like medicine, rest, the elevation of the affected area, compression, ice, heat and nerve blocks. PT has multiple goals and outcomes. Those include:

  • Eliminating or reducing pain
  • Improving mobility
  • Recovering from an injury, accident or chronic pain flare-up
  • Improving balance
  • Avoiding surgery
  • Assisting patients who developed pain or complications from surgery
  • Preventing further injury
  • Stopping a disease or chronic condition from progressing
  • Returning patients to their most comfortable and functional state
  • Improving the overall quality of lives
  • Providing patients with the necessary tools for self-management of their pain

Meet Our Therapists

OrthoArizona – Arcadia’s Physical Therapy Department provides treatment plans designed specifically to meet our patients’ individualized therapy needs focusing on restoring, maintaining and promoting overall fitness and health.

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5-Star Review from C. C.

“The moment I walked into the office everyone was extremely friendly! I was a new patient on crutches and the front desk staff accommodated my unfortunate situation by coming out around from their desk and registered me in the waiting where I was able to sit. I apologize I missed most names however thank you to all involved with my check in, seeing Dr. Schmidt, getting my splint, and scheduling my surgery. The staff was knowedagle, caring, and above all understanding. Thank You Dr. Schmidt for easing my thoughts and concerns about my surgery! I am thankful you worked your magic and the surgery went well…Now on to recovery…See you all soon!”

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“Dr. Ott performed a full knee replacement surgery on me April 13 -2016. It has been 3 months and I have full straight extension and bend is just under 130 degrees. I could not be more pleased with my results from this surgery. The very best part is that I finally have NO PAIN in my knee. I have suffered with knee pain for so many years that I had almost forgotten what it would be like to live knee pain free !! Dr. Ott was very professional and explained everything very clearly. I highly recommend him and if I need surgery on my other knee he will be the man for for job !!! Thank you Very much !!!”

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