Myth 1: All physical therapy is created equal.
I have heard it a hundred time "I tried the physical therapy, and it didn't work". physical therapy isnt a thing, it is care provided by a physical therapist. There are 1000 different things that a physical therapist can try to help you with your problems, and like any profession there are good PTs and bad ones. If you fail to feel better with one therapist, it doesn't meant that another physical therapist can't help you.
Myth 2: Physical therapy consists of hot packs, ultrasounds, massage, and leg lifts.
To piggy back of the first myth, physical therapy is not defined as the modes of treatment above. In fact i have never even used an ultrasound machine outside of school. Physical therapy has come along way from its previous methods (we still have a long way to go before I'm content with the profession's trajectory, but that will be a post for a later day). Physical therapy consists of evaluating and treating deficits in joint movement, soft tissue movement, movement patterns and symptom management. The days of only providing passive modalities should be long gone, but sadly enough, there are still some PTs who perscribe many non skilled interventions.
Myth 3: Physical therapy is for rehab after surgery.
Physical therapists historically have the most experience with post op rehabilitation, and generally early post op rehab is best suited for physical therapists, but the physical therapists should be capable of working with people at any point point of the rehab spectrum. A good physical therapist should also be able to help you prevent injury, discuss lifestyle choices or behaviors that will help your overall wellness, and enhance your athletic ability.
Myth 4: Physical therapy can't help people with joint degeneration.
First of all, it does not help that many physicians are telling patients that they have the worst arthritis they have ever seen, they have the spine of an 80 year old, or they are getting old, have arthritis and they have to slow down and get used to it. Most research shows that half of the people with degenerative findings are not in pain and significant injuries such as herniations heal. It is my belief (not proven by published scientific studies) that poor movement contributes to both joint degradation and pain. Our bodies are always breaking down and rebuilding tissues and if you learn how to move better you will be changing how well your body is rebuilding tissues.
Myth 5: You have to be in pain to benefit from seeing a physical therapist.
There are a few points that I want to touch on here. First, injuries heal, so if you have been injured and the pain naturally subsided with rest, your body is doing its job and allowing tissues to heal. What you body does better than healing, though, is compensating. with any injury we can see compensation patterns to offload the hurt tissue. Our body is not as good at undoing the compensations depending on how significant and how long you were in pain. So even if you are not in pain now a good physical therapist can help you improve your movements to decrease compensations and as mentioned above, improve your body's ability to rebuild. second, since we do not live integrated with nature there is a very strong chance that your posture and movement will be suffering with or without a history of injury. To me it seems that bad posture isn't noticeably problematic, until it is. Meaning that if you have bad posture but you are never stressed mentally or physically in a significant manner, you may not experience symptoms. Once you do experience symptoms it may be harder to get out of the pain cycle since your pre-existing posture and mechanics are so far deviated from optimal, so do yourself a favor, and learn how to move.
Myth 6: you need a referral to see a physical therapist.
In the state of Oregon you do not need a referral to see a physical therapist. In some instances it is worse for you to see a PCP for a muskuloskeletal problem. one study showed that 9% of people with back pain were referred to a physical therapist and the most common prescription for back pain are medicine and rest. Not to mention the number of times patients have gotten bad information from primary care providers such as harmful information that I covered in myth 4 or a number of incorrect diagnoses. Physical therapists behind orthopedic surgeons and specialized neurologists are the top profession to determine extent of injury, ruling out malignant issues, and determining the best path for recovery. Studies have shown that health care expenses are minimized when you see a PT first.
Myth 7: Seeing your orthopeadist, or neurologist first is your best plan to solve your problem.
I have had a few instances in my career where I couldn't resolve the problem and an orhopedic or neurological physician was needed for a more invasive procedure. There are hundreds of other cases where these issues were able to be solved without surgery, injection, or expensive imaging. often if you see a surgeon or an injection specialist that will be your first intervention without trying to solve the problem with less invasive measures. Surgeon's livelihood depend on surgery, if the problem may be helped by surgery you will often be told that it needs surgery, but often those who seek less invasive measures can be helped significantly.
Myth 8: Your physical therapist can fix you.
There is no passive treatment on the planet that will fix you. I have been led to believe that the root of our problems comes from poor interaction with gravity. There are things we can do as physical therapists that help decrease your pain, but to get to the root of your problem you are going to have to work hard. If a health care professional tells you otherwise they are either mis-informed or trying to pander to you to keep your business.
Thank you for taking the time to educate yourself. I hope I have answered more questions than I have created. If you have any further questions feel feet to contact me on this page or on other pages of the site. The world of physical therapy is ambiguous so please do research, ask questions, get second opinions, and find one that you trust.
James is dedicated to helping the Portland area decrease pain and improve performance. He believes education is an important factor in solving your problems.
All information on this website is intended for instruction and informational purposes only. The authors are not responsible for any harm or injury that may result. Significant injury risk is possible if you do not follow due diligence and seek suitable professional advice about your injury. No guarantees of specific results are expressly made or implied on this website.