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Health & Longevity

What Is Physical Therapy & Who Can Benefit From It?

A Doctor of Physical Therapy uses a variety of physical therapy (PT) exercises and techniques to offer patients relief from pain and help them regain strength, flexibility, and improved range of motion they may have lost as a result of an accident or injury.

The goal of PT is to relieve pain, improve movement and help a patient return to a normal, healthy life.

Who Can Benefit From Physical Therapy?

Several conditions make a patient a good candidate for PT.  Essentially, any condition that interferes with mobility or the physical ability to function normally is a reason for PT treatment. 

Some of these conditions include:

  • Fractures
  • Neck and back pain
  • Cardiac rehabilitation
  • Pain or issues with knees, ankles, or feet
  • Problems with the hands, wrists, shoulders, or arms
  • Sprains and muscle strains
  • Accidents and trauma
  • Balance or mobility issues
  • Sports injuries

For example, a patient who is bedridden for a long period due to back pain is an excellent candidate for PT. Even if they’ve spent their recovery time in an adjustable hospital bed designed to provide comfort, their muscles may have atrophied, and they may need help to build strength again. 

Physical therapy for back pain may include spinal manipulation to relieve pain and increase mobility, exercises to strengthen the back and achieve greater flexibility, and instruction on how to care for one’s back to prevent future injury. 

How Physical Therapy Exercises Help With Pain Management

PT exercises address not only the actual injury but work in aiding the body to heal by helping it produce its own pain-relieving chemicals. It is widely known that exercise triggers the body to release endorphins. These interact with receptors in the brain and work to reduce the perception of pain. 

For example, a patient with whiplash from a car accident may experience chronic neck pain in addition to their back, arms, and even their legs. Because it is all connective tissue, pain can radiate from the injury to other parts of the body, even if they weren’t directly injured. PT exercises work to increase endorphin production, reduce strain on the neck, relieve pain and restore range of motion. As a result, a patient will experience a reduction in pain to other extremities as well. 

How Long Does It Take To Feel Results From Physical Therapy?

If PT is prescribed for a patient, a physical therapist may initially recommend treatment three times per week. Patients can expect each session to last between 30 to 60 minutes.

Factors that determine the duration of PT depend upon the severity of the patient’s injuries, their age, the rate at which they heal, and their adherence to the program. 

For something like a neck injury from a car accident, a patient can expect to attend PT for approximately six to eight weeks. During this time, the physical therapist will monitor progress and any mobility, function, and strength improvements. 

More than half of patients who undergo PT see results in movement, pain relief, and increased strength.

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