What Is Physical Therapy?

If you’re recovering from surgery, experiencing pain from a chronic health condition or if you’ve been injured, your doctor might recommend physical therapy to help reduce your symptoms. PT is a type of treatment that’s used to improve movement, relieve pain and strengthen muscles in people who have a medical condition like arthritis or a sports injury.

Physical therapy can help with a wide range of conditions, including chronic pain, muscle spasms, joint problems, stroke and brain injuries. It can also reduce the need for surgery and/or medication in some cases.

The therapist will assess your condition and design a personalized treatment plan that may include therapeutic exercises, electrical stimulation, hot or cold therapies, manual manipulation, and assistive devices for daily activities. The therapist will work with you and your caregivers to meet your goals. During your initial evaluation, the therapist will also screen for your cognition (how well you think and remember), vision and medications to identify if there are other health professionals who should be involved in your care.

You’ll participate in guided movements and active exercises to improve your mobility, coordination and strength. Often, the therapist will show you how to perform these exercises on your own outside of the clinic so that you can continue improving in between treatment sessions. Your therapist will also teach you about what to expect and how to prevent future pain or injury. It’s important to listen to your therapist, ask questions and be honest about how you’re feeling. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t push through the pain – you could worsen your injury and cause more harm.

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