What Is Physical Therapy?

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Physical therapy is a healthcare profession that focuses on the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of movement disorders and musculoskeletal injuries or conditions. It involves the use of exercise, manual therapy and education to promote movement, reduce pain, restore function, and prevent disability. It is often used in conjunction with recovery plans for various surgical and non-surgical orthopaedic treatments.

Physical therapists work with patients of all ages and abilities to develop personalised treatment plans aimed at improving mobility, strength, flexibility, endurance, balance, coordination, and overall physical function. The goal of physical therapy is to help individuals achieve their maximal physical potential and enhance their quality of life.

When Might I Need Physical Therapy?

Physical therapy can benefit anyone seeking to enhance their physical function, mobility, strength, flexibility, endurance, balance, and coordination. It may be recommended if you have experienced an injury or surgery that has affected your ability to move, or if you have ongoing pain that impairs your functionality. Those with neurological conditions, such as a stroke or spinal cord injury, can also benefit from physical therapy to help regain their mobility and function. 

Patients with movement disorders, like Parkinson's disease or multiple sclerosis, can use physical therapy to help maintain their mobility and function. Physical therapy may also be suggested for those with balance or coordination issues or who are at risk of falling to reduce the likelihood of falls and improve balance.

What Will Your Physical Therapist Do At Your Appointment?

A physical therapy consultation typically involves an initial evaluation by a licensed physical therapist to assess your current condition and medical history. During this evaluation, the physical therapist may ask you questions about your symptoms, past injuries, medical conditions, and other relevant factors. They may also conduct a physical examination to evaluate your range of motion, strength, balance, and flexibility.

Based on this assessment, the physical therapist will develop a treatment plan that is tailored to your specific needs and goals. This may involve a combination of exercises, stretches, manual therapy techniques, and other interventions designed to reduce pain, improve mobility, and promote healing.

Throughout treatment, the physical therapist will monitor your progress and make adjustments to the treatment plan as needed. The physical therapist may also provide education and guidance on strategies for preventing future injuries and maintaining overall physical health and wellness.

What Types Of Exercises Will I Be Asked To Do?

The types of exercises prescribed during physical therapy will depend on your condition, goals, and overall health. Some common types of exercises used during physical therapy include:

  • Range-of-motion exercises include stretching or gentle movements that help to improve joint mobility and flexibility.
  • Strengthening exercises include exercises using weights, resistance bands, or body weight to improve muscle strength and endurance. 
  • Balance exercises include standing on one leg or using a balance board to help improve balance and prevent falls. 
  • Cardiovascular exercises include walking, cycling, or swimming to improve heart and lung function. 
  • Pain-relief exercises include massage, heat therapy, cold therapy, or relaxation techniques to reduce pain and discomfort. 

How Often Am I Supposed To Do Physical Therapy?

Generally, physical therapy is done regularly, such as two to three times per week. However, your physical therapist may recommend more or fewer sessions depending on your individual needs. In addition to in-person sessions with your physical therapist, they may also recommend exercises and stretches for you to do at home daily. Consistency and adherence to your treatment plan are important factors in achieving the best outcomes with physical therapy.

What Does Physical Therapy Cost?

If you are seeking physical therapy through the National Health Service (NHS), you may be able to access it for free if your GP refers you for treatment. However, there may be waiting times for non-urgent cases.

If you are seeking private physical therapy in the UK, the cost may vary depending on the location and the type of treatment. The initial consultation fee may range from £40 to £100 or more, while follow-up sessions may cost between £30 and £80 or more. These fees may vary depending on the provider and location.

Does Physical Therapy Involve Any Special Equipment?

A physical therapy office may be furnished with special equipment such as resistance bands, weights, balance boards, treadmills, stationary bikes, and ultrasound machines. The equipment you will use depends on your specific needs and treatment plan. 

The physical therapist may also use various modalities, such as heat or cold therapy, electrical stimulation, or manual therapy techniques like massage or joint mobilisation, to help reduce pain and improve function. 

Is Physical Therapy Invasive?

No, physical therapy is generally not considered an invasive treatment. Physical therapists use non-invasive techniques such as exercise, manual therapy, and modalities such as heat, ice, and electrical stimulation to help patients improve their mobility, reduce pain, and restore function. 

While some manual therapy techniques may involve hands-on contact with the patient's body, physical therapy does not typically involve invasive procedures such as injections or surgery. However, in some cases, physical therapy may be part of a patient's pre or post-operative care plan after orthopaedic surgery, in which case it may involve more invasive techniques under the supervision of a physician.

Physical Therapy, In Summary

Physical therapy is a healthcare profession that focuses on improving movement and function in individuals with musculoskeletal injuries or conditions. During a physical therapy consultation, a licensed physical therapist will evaluate your condition and develop a personalised treatment plan that may include exercises, stretches, manual therapy, and other interventions.

The frequency of physical therapy sessions will depend on your individual needs and goals, and it is important to follow the recommended exercises and treatments to achieve the best outcomes. While physical therapy may be accessible through the National Health Service in the UK, private physical therapy may also be an option with costs varying depending on location and type of treatment.

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