What Is Physical Therapy?

by Rheysonn Cornilla

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Physical therapy is a collaborative process, a healing relationship, a means to an end—and that end is achieving your fullest potential.

Physical therapists (PTs) are healthcare professionals who literally get you back on your feet to pursue your passions and live life meaningfully.

As defined by the World Confederation of Physical Therapy, it refers to the services provided by physical therapists to individuals and populations to develop, maintain, and restore maximum movement and functional ability throughout one's lifespan.

PTs are experts in body structure and function. So if you have any problems with movement or activity (i.e., pain, discomfort, weakness), chances are a physical therapist can help.

In fact, there are physical therapy specializations that help people in different life stages—from pediatric to geriatric; different life goals—recovering from surgery to improving athletic performance; and different health concerns—from exercising safely after a heart attack to learning how to walk again after a stroke. There's always a PT who can address your needs, whether they involve recovery or optimum performance.

What is manual therapy? Manual therapy is a minor part of a skilled clinician's arsenal. It's a way of giving inputs to the body in order to make the nervous system respond in a way that promotes healing, recovery, and increased capacity for movements and activity. There are techniques to decrease pain and sensitivity, induce relaxation, and improve mobility by acting on muscles or joints. There are even techniques to address issues with the nerves!

Manual therapy is done after a thorough evaluation or as part of the evaluation. It's usually done to alleviate pain and achieve better movement. A graded exercise program should follow. It's important to remember that your physical activity and exercise lead to long-term improvements.

How does physical therapy work and what is it like? The process of physical therapy starts with you and your commitment to be better. You will have to tell your therapist how you got injured, what alleviates your pain, what aggravates it, how you feel about it, what you think is going on, and how it affects your activities and everyday life. This is a relationship. Your PT has to know you and how you feel. You will both have to work on setting your goals before he or she lays out a plan to achieve them. Then you will work together hand in hand through whatever obstacles might hold you back. It's a process, and sometimes, it's not easy.

All treatment programs start with an evaluation. This is very important. The more thorough the assessment, the more comprehensive the treatment. Each and every session is a chance to re-evaluate, re-assess, and strategize. You should be actively involved every step of the way. Always remember that a successful program ends with you being functionally independent. Appreciate the small victories. You're meant to move on to bigger challenges; progression is the name of the game.

How is Aegle Wellness Center's physical therapy different? We begin with the end in mind; goals are important because they give our plans direction. With your goals set, we work together to improve your performance in your passion, and in life.

We understand movement, and we know movement patterns. While others focus on the site of pain or injury, we look at your totality, not singled-out body regions. We work to refine movements and optimize them. One-sided back pain might make you put more weight on the opposite leg. A shoulder injury might impair your arm swing during running or walking. Limited extension of the big toe might change your running form. These all impact your overall movement quality.

Consider the following examples: Three people came to us with knee pain. The first one plays badminton and has no deceleration control in running. The second one doesn’’t hinge at the hip and has poor ankle mobility; his movements are knee-dominant. The third one hyperextends at the knee and has weak quadriceps and tight hamstrings and calves. Three people, same symptoms, different presentations, different approaches. We take a different perspective——an individualized, movement- based perspective.

What conditions can you help with? If you have pain or weakness related to movement or activity, have an old injury you never really recovered from, are coming off surgery and looking to get stronger, or just want to have your movement assessed to find points for improvement, PTs can help with that. Pain syndromes, tendinitis, shoulder and back pain, knee pain, and sprains and strains usually get better with appropriately graded movements. Just get a referral for physical therapy from your doctor and schedule an appointment with us through Aegle Wellness Center's friendly service assistants.

This article was originally published on Alphaland Atmospheres Issue No. 6

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