How to Know When You Should See a Physical Therapist
Various pains and aches are part of life, as are injuries and ailments. It's normal to schedule an appointment with a doctor when something doesn't feel right, but it gets more complicated when we ask ourselves, "when to see a physical therapist"?
It can get confusing to understand whether that sore back or minor wrist injury warrants a visit or not.
However, physical therapists (PTs) can help prevent and treat additional impairments, speed up healing and recovery, and help you go back to living a full life without discomfort or pain.
So to help you navigate the process and understand when to see a physical therapist, we've put together everything you need to know!
Is It Time for Physical Therapy?
Physical therapy is usually most appropriate when dealing with a musculoskeletal issue, meaning your injury or condition affects muscles, ligaments, tendons, or bones.
In general, people see a physical therapist to address pain or a potential injury inhibiting their ability to move, function, or exercise normally.
Let's go into more detail and look at specific situations that warrant an appointment with a PT.
When people ask us, "how do I know if I need physical therapy?" we always ask whether they experience lingering pain and for how long.
While it's okay to feel some pain or discomfort after a workout or physical labor, you may want to see a physical therapist if the pain persists longer than 3 days (and after icing the area).
The same goes after experiencing an injury - sometimes the symptoms go away after resting and taking some time off any activities - but if they don't, make that appointment.
Dull and recurring pain
When is physical therapy needed? Any dull and recurring pain that lasts for months or years and is related to chronic or undiagnosed conditions and injuries can become familiar, but it doesn't mean you should ignore them.
People tend to "get used to" the pain and discomfort, but a physical therapist can help you sort out the problem altogether and help restore your mobility and freedom.
Physical therapy is extremely beneficial when recovering from injuries and traumas of muscles, bones, ligaments, etc.
After your initial treatment program is over, schedule an appointment with a physical therapist to discuss an individual recovery plan to ensure you heal properly and quickly.
Medication doesn't work
One of the times when to get physical therapy is when your pain medications don't work and you're experiencing pain. Physical therapy will address the underlying issue (even a minor one) and help manage your pain and discomfort.
Changes in your body
Nobody knows our bodies better than ourselves, so if you notice any visible changes and are experiencing pain out of a sudden, you may benefit from working with a physical therapist.
The changes include reduced mobility, stiffness, things like a swollen knee or wrist, difficulty performing your daily tasks or exercises, etc. The sooner you schedule your appointment, the sooner a professional can address your issues and create an individual treatment plan.
If you're recovering after a surgery or injury, physical therapy can help during the healing process.
Such surgeries include microdiscectomy, ACL reconstruction, arthroscopic rotator cuff repair, etc. The rehabilitation process and how you approach it will determine how long it will take to achieve your goals and best health.
Overall, you can start seeing a physical therapist as soon as your doctor clears you for it, and it may take from 2 to 12 months to reach your recovery goals, so don't put it off!
While all the reasons mentioned above are legitimate, you do not need to have an injury, condition, or surgery to see and benefit from a visit with a physical therapist.
They can also help you assess your fitness level, mobility, minor aches, or discomforts and help create an exercise program to improve your health or get back to exercising safely and efficiently.
Understanding your body, how it works and how to improve can be very empowering and helpful to feel as healthy as possible.
Physical therapists will do a thorough assessment, recommend and demonstrate exercises, and use other wellbeing modalities such as massages.
Pregnancy is also an excellent time to see a PT.
How it works
So how can physical therapy help you? First of all, professional PTs thoroughly assess your mobility, injuries, or conditions and identify any posture issues and movement patterns, joint range of motion, and muscle strength.
All that is necessary for them to identify your current condition, understand where your pain and discomfort come from, and create a treatment plan that will help you reduce and manage pain, improve your mobility, increase your range of motion and overall improve your wellbeing and quality of life. They will also educate you on your body and how you can help yourself.
Your PT will use various modalities to treat you and speed up your recovery based on that treatment plan. The modalities include ultrasound, massage, exercise, electrical stimulation, TENS, heat and ice, traction, laser, and light therapy, and others.
When to See a Primary Care Provider First
One of the most common confusion when it comes to the question of when to see a physical therapist is if you should see a primary care provider first.
When you're experiencing acute and extreme pain, have an acute injury, or can't function and move, you should always see a doctor first. They will run tests, do an MRI scan, and will help immediately remedy the situation to manage your pain.
They will also determine whether you need surgery, are there any broken bones, torn ligaments, or muscles, and what's the best course of action for treatment.
Once you see a doctor, they will help with your treatment plan and will also let you know when is the best time to start physical therapy.
The best results are usually achieved when your doctor and PT work together.
Making an Appointment for Physical Therapy
Now that you know when to see a physical therapist and how they can help let's talk about how to see a physical therapist and how to get physical therapy.
While if you're seeing your primary care doctor, you may need a referral for a PT or orthopedist, other times, you do not need to schedule the appointment through them. This means a referral is not always needed, and you schedule the consultation yourself.
Find a physical therapist near you and schedule an appointment by email or calling their office.
Before you see the PT, it's very helpful to prepare for the meeting to get the most out of your first consultation.
Here's how to prepare:
Make a list of all your questions.
Have all the information about your symptoms, injuries, past conditions, surgeries, and treatments ready, and try to estimate the duration/severity of those symptoms.
Bring all the lab, diagnostic and medical reports and everything related to your condition and medical history.
Refresh your memory about your medical history so you can discuss it freely.
Have a list of all your prescription and over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements.
Make a list of your family's (parents, siblings) medical conditions, as many physical therapists require that information.
Think about and write down all the environmental factors, stress, and incidents that may have contributed to your condition.
For your physical therapist visit, it's important to wear comfortable and non-restrictive clothing. Here are a few suggestions.
Loose-fitting tops, tank tops, t-shirts.
Athletic shorts, pants with a loose or elastic waistband, leggings.
Supportive athletic sneakers, tennis shoes, socks.
Work, formal, dress clothing (bring a change if you're coming straight from work).
Jeans, skirts, dresses.
Dress shoes, sandals, open toed shoes.
How to Get Physical Therapy Near Me
The physical therapists at Miracle Rehab aim to help people see that physical therapy is a necessary and tremendously helpful part of both treating various injuries and conditions, recovering from surgeries and traumas as well as maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Our team of board-certified physicians and licensed physical therapists create a personalized, comprehensive plan of care tailored to your specific needs and with total recovery in mind. We develop a thorough understanding of your condition, analyze your physical data and establish the best rehabilitation program for you.
Miracle Physical Therapy and Massage Center Inc. conveniently has clinics in Farmington Hills and Warren, Michigan, and provides physical therapy and massage therapy for a diverse range of diagnoses.
We specialize in Orthopedic Rehab, Neurological Rehab, Operative and Sprain/Strain Rehabilitation, treat sports and other injuries, and assist with Pre- and Post-Operative Rehab services.
Our team provides perfect physical therapy regimen plans for all medical situations, whether you've been injured on the field, are recovering from surgery or simply twisted your back while gardening, or have experienced a sports injury, trauma after a car accident, stroke, or another debilitating injury.
Schedule an appointment today, so we can start your recovery journey!