It’s the sharp pull in your left shoulder or the nagging ache in your knee that just won’t go away.
And while minor body discomfort is normal as we age, pick up a new workout routine, or simply engage in everyday activities – the lingering pain may leave you wondering if it’s something more serious.
So how do you know when it’s time to seek help or if physical therapy is the right treatment option?
What is physical therapy?
To decide if physical therapy is right for you, it is important to know exactly what physical therapy is and how it can help your specific condition.
Physical therapists are highly educated, licensed health care professionals with extensive clinical experience to help patients reduce pain and improve or restore mobility. They work alongside patients to examine, diagnose and prevent or treat conditions that may limit daily activities and overall quality of life.
Physical therapy aims to help people become more mobile, flexible and strong, which allows them to build endurance and avoid or treat injury.
Because physical therapists receive specialized education, they can also diagnose a number of problems – no matter what area of the body.
They know how to manage several of the major body systems and can also be certified in eight specialty areas including orthopedics, sports, pediatrics, geriatrics, cardiopulmonary, neurology, women’s health and clinical electrophysiology.
When should I see a physical therapist?
If you are feeling any pain or discomfort, try taking a day off from the activity that triggered the injury.
The pain may simply be caused by inflammation or muscle strain, and taking a break – or icing the area several times a day – can provide rapid relief and recovery.
On average, it takes a person two to three days for muscle recovery. Any pain or soreness that lingers or returns could mean a more serious injury, especially if the discomfort is sharp and centralized.
Pain or discomfort that limits your daily activities – such as walking up and down stairs, or getting in and out of a car – should also be treated by a physical therapist. With the right treatment plan, physical therapists can help eliminate pain and correct any problems restricting your ability to move freely.
Keep in mind however, recovery does not happen overnight.
Evaluation and recovery may require treatment over several months, but the overall goal for every physical therapist is to deliver the best results in the shortest time possible.
Take the first step and visit a physical therapist.
Your first visit will include an evaluation to identify any current or potential problems. Ask your physical therapist any questions about your treatment plan. Detailed information about you and your condition will better help your physical therapist determine the appropriate course of action.
Following your examination, your physical therapist will design a plan of care and timetable to help you optimize movement, facilitate recovery and achieve your goals.
For more information on how a physical therapist can help you, be sure to take advantage of the APTAs patient resources at www.apta.org.