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I recently saw a young Olympic power lifting patient who was having shoulder pain from doing some of her lifts. The patient had never done physical therapy and was surprised to find out that physical therapist saw patients like her. She originally thought PT’s only saw older people and knee/hip replacements. She had no idea that PT’s have such a wide range of conditions and people that we can see. I thought that providing some information about what physical therapist do and who we see would be helpful.

What does a Doctor of physical therapy do?

Physical therapists are functional movement experts whose main goal is to aid the patient in returning to or maintaining quality of life by diagnosing, treating, and preventing impairments or functional limitations. Physical therapists treat patients by incorporating and employing the use of several different rehab tools such as manual therapy, modalities, and even exercise programs that improve function, and even reduce pain in the patient. While physical therapy can be paired with other treatments from other healthcare providers, it can also be completed as a standalone treatment.

How long does it take to become a PT?

Currently, all new students in the United States are required to have a doctorate level degree to become a physical therapist. You are required to have a bachelor’s degree and 3 additional years of physical therapy school, before you can obtain your doctorate. There are even residencies offered for physical therapist in orthopedics, neurologic, pediatrics and others.

Why choose physical therapy?

Like was mentioned, there are other treatments for people that are experiencing pain. One of those options is surgery. Many people will tend to want to have surgery because they think that it will be a quick fix and will get them back to “normal” faster. However, for many surgeries, it is recommended that the patient first go to physical therapy to strengthen the muscles before the surgery. Not to mention, after surgery, patients will have to visit a physical therapist for many visits in order to get full range of motion back, as well as to strengthen the muscles that have atrophied.

Another form of treatment for pain are opioids. Opioids are pain relievers that are prescribed to a patient but can be taken to help with the intense pain that the patient is feeling. However, this is something that the patient will then rely too much on and can develop addictions to.

While many people choose these routes, physical therapy can resolve many of the same problems that these other forms of treatments do. In fact, in many situations physical therapy can reduce the pain and even increase the strength of muscles to help with preventing future problems that the patient may be exposed to. So choose physical therapy first to see if it can help you so you can live life to the fullest.

Who do physical therapists treat?

There is a wide variety of patients, both in age and condition, that can be seen by a physical therapist. Many may think that only older people need physical therapy, but that is not the case. In fact, people who are needing surgery, people with back and neck pain, vertigo, people who have concussions, and even athletes that are injured or even athletes that are wanting to strengthen and condition before competition are all available to and would benefit from physical therapy.

Do I have to go see a doctor before I can go to a physical therapist?

In the past, in order to see a physical therapist, you would first have to see a doctor to get a referral for therapy. However, that is not the case anymore. While there are some conditions that you will need to see a doctor first anyway because of the severity of the condition, there are many conditions that you don’t need to see a doctor and a physical therapist can diagnose and treat you. In order to do this, you just need to contact the physical therapist office to schedule an appointment to be evaluated.

What settings do physical therapists work in?

While physical therapists can be employed in a number of different settings, some of the most common settings are:

  • Hospitals
  • Nursing Home/ Extended Care Facility
  • Outpatient Clinic
  • Schools
  • Home Health

What are some areas that physical therapists can specialize in?

  • Cardiopulmonary
  • Musculoskeletal
  • Neurological
  • Pediatrics
  • Geriatric
  • Vestibular
  • Wound Care
  • Women’s Health
  • Sports Injuries

It is important to understand that Physical Therapists that specialize in certain areas have received additional education for those specialties. If you can find a specialist that has received special training to give the best treatment possible, this should be the course that a patient should take to return back to full function as soon as possible.

If you have pain or any conditions, like those mentioned above, and think physical therapy could help you, come in and see us at Pick PT. Our Doctors’ of Physical Therapy specialize in some of the aforementioned specialties, so contact us so you can come and see a specialist to resolve your problems so you can live your life moving.