As a physical therapist, I get asked this question a lot. Like, a lot. And about 973 times out of 1,000 my answer is yes.
Maaaaybe 972 times.
Whether it’s a friend texting from 3,000 miles away about her ankle pain or a patient’s spouse asking if PT will help his vertigo, even my coworker who lives at the gym and can’t deadlift because of his low back pain, the answer is usually “yes”.
In my experience, physical therapy is often more effective, less invasive, and cheaper than alternative medical treatments to musculoskeletal injuries and issues. Injury aside, I would even suggest a yearly physical therapy checkup, similar to yearly physicals.
I am by no means suggesting that everyone would benefit from two to three months of physical therapy three times a week every year. Still, there are many different things you can do in a yearly PT check-up.
You can review your current exercise and stretching routine with your therapist to assess form and see if you can progress to different, more challenging exercises.
You can ask about that annoying twinge in your knee that doesn’t seem to be getting better. Because, let’s face it, when you reach a certain age you always have some annoying pain somewhere that you haven’t gotten checked out yet.
For older patients, your therapist can reassess your gait and balance and see if it’s worth coming in for a few weeks for a “tune-up.”
Young people aren’t excluded from these benefits either.
With smartphone usage and overall screen time increasing, more and more teenagers and young adults are requiring physical therapy for neck and low back pain.
And, while it may be a bit difficult to enforce in rebelling teenagers, teaching proper posture, stretches, and core/scapular stability exercises could help curtail this growing trend.
Basic education from a physical therapist can help prevent long-term issues and pain.
So, now maybe you’ve accepted you need physical therapy; you just don’t have the time. Or the money. Both certainly legitimate reasons.
I view physical therapy, however, as an educational job. As your physical therapist, my goal is to help you feel better and then teach you how to stay that way.
If money and time are issues you can certainly work with your therapist in a limited number of visits to learn exercises you can do at home.
People often tell me they have found free physical therapy exercise tutorials online. I always advise against this.
Don’t get me wrong. There is a ton of great information out there, and all of it is at the tips of your fingers. Still, YouTube and Instagram videos can’t determine your specific range of motion, flexibility, or strength deficits. The exercise is not specific to your need or ability.
Physical therapy is all about treating you as a unique person with unique impairments and functional goals, helping you get to where you want to be.
From jaw pain to vertigo to balance issues, physical therapy can help with a large variety of issues. So remember, the next time you ask yourself if you need physical therapy, the answer is 97.3% likely to be “yes.”
Okay, maybe 97.2%.