Physical therapy is an important part of a rehabilitation program. When doctors prescribe physical therapy as treatment for a disease, injury or deformity, they are trying to avoid the possibility of surgery or drugs to correct the situation. Many doctors see physical therapy as a first line of defense against putting patients under the knife.
At Family Chiropractic Plus, we agree with this philosophy, so we offer a full line of physical therapy treatment options.
What is Physical Therapy?
Physical therapy is not one process, but rather a combination of different treatments that is typically customized for each patient.
Your physical therapy session may begin with heat or ice being applied to the affected area. Heat tends to limber the area for exercises while ice reduces swelling. Electrical stimulation and ultrasound are other techniques that relax the muscles before a session. Your therapist may also test your range of motion before you begin.
A normal physical therapy session includes exercises like these:
- Stretching – Much muscle discomfort is a result of the muscles tightening up. Then, when you bend over to tie your shoe, hoe your vegetable garden or get tackled by your child or grandchild, the muscle doesn’t respond the way it should. Therefore, you get a “catch” in your back. Similar injuries can occur in sports, auto accidents or work-related accidents.
Stretching will almost always be included in a physical therapy routine so that you can work out the problem you are currently having while also preventing any further injuries of the same type.
- Core Exercises – More and more doctors and trainers are beginning to realize the connection between a strong core and fewer back problems. Family Chiropractic Plus wants to emphasize this connection to all of our patients, and particularly to those who are undergoing physical therapy for a back issue.
A strong core (the muscles of your upper and lower abdomen, sides and back) gives you a firm support system. Patients often feel pain in their spine because their core muscles are weak, which puts all the pressure of supporting the upper body on their spinal column. Strengthening the core through exercise helps alleviate a lot of their pain.
- Lifting Weights – Weight training doesn’t have to leave you looking like The Hulk! Lifting even light weights has many benefits. It strengthens muscles and connective tissue, and research shows that it can even reduce the risk of osteoporosis in women 50 and older. Therefore, lifting weights should be a part of everyone’s weekly exercise regimen.
For someone who is going through therapeutic treatment, lifting weights can speed up the healing process and strengthen the injured area so that it does not get reinjured. Our doctors and therapists may formulate a weight-lifting plan that suits your needs. It will detail which exercises you should do, how much weight you need for each one, how many repetitions and sets you need to do and how frequently you should do this routine.
- Walking – Walking is an amazing exercise that is largely underrated. Walking just 20 minutes per day has amazing health benefits, including ones specifically for your spine and other joints. If you choose to do your walking outside, you will get the added benefits of fresh air and vitamin D!
When you have a physical therapy treatment plan in place with Family Chiropractic Plus, we will probably recommend that you walk every day, or at least a few days a week, in order to keep up your joint mobility and get in a bit of cardiovascular exercise.
Results of Physical Therapy
The end result of this therapeutic care is to restore your physical functions so that you can perform your normal daily tasks with ease. However, you may find that your physical functioning and fitness level actually improve after a round of specified physical therapy.
Physical therapy may also be recommended after a surgery to speed up your recovery time. It’s proven time after time that physical therapy decreases the time it takes a patient to heal more quickly and helps the patient to maintain full mobility after the surgery. Its use is common after any surgery on a joint: hip, knee, ankle, shoulder, elbow, wrist, and – of course – back. Physical therapy strengthens the muscles, tendons and ligaments that may have been damaged by the initial injury or by the surgery itself.
Nevertheless, doctors are coming to realize the full potential of physical therapy to treat other conditions such as arthritis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, better known as COPD. Further research is being conducted about the benefits of physical therapy on these and many other conditions, but all studies done up to this point have shown positive results concerning the use of physical therapy as treatment.
Physical therapy may also increase your flexibility, coordination and balance. All of these are factors in reducing your chance of incurring a new injury down the road.
It may be used alone or combined with other treatments, such as massage therapy or spinal adjustments, in order to keep your body on the path to 100% health and healing.
Many people brush off physical therapy techniques, thinking that simple exercises and stretching can’t really help them. But as we said in the beginning, physical therapy is your doctor’s best defense against putting you on long-term pain medication or having you undergo an expensive, invasive surgical procedure.
Pain medication has many undesirable side effects, and it can be nearly impossible to discontinue using, especially after years of use. The best option is to never begin taking it in the first place. Surgery, too, has its risks. Some surgeries are quite risky, and death is a possibility in every single surgical procedure. We don’t say this to frighten you, but only to promote the use of physical therapy as a serious medical practice.
Even if you are skeptical, give physical therapy your best effort! The team here at Family Chiropractic Plus is waiting to answer any questions you may have and to be by your side every step of the way!