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  • Tara Albright DPT

Physical Therapy Myth Busting!

Updated: May 5, 2021

Physical therapist are experts in the way the body moves and works. Physical therapist can help people in many ways, but often there are some misconceptions that keep people from accessing the benefits of physical therapy. Since October is Physical Therapy Month we thought we would go through and debunk some common myths that are out there regarding physical therapy.

Myth#1: I have to have a referral to see a physical therapist.

Not True. Actually, in all 50 states it is legal and easy to see a physical therapist without a referral. This is called “direct access” meaning that patients who think they need physical therapy can call and schedule an appointment and be evaluated by a physical therapist. Also, most insurance companies do not require a prescription for treatment from a physical therapist. If you are wondering about a referral call your insurance company and ask if you need a prescription for physical therapy, or call us and we may be able to help.

Myth #2: Physical Therapy is painful

This is a common misconception that keeps people out of physical therapy. In most cases the goal of physical therapy is to minimize discomfort and pain, even with chronic pain or injury. As physical therapist we try our best to make you comfortable and help you with the pain. All physical therapists are trained to work within your pain threshold and should be sensitive to tailoring your treatment around your pain and discomfort.

Myth #3: I can’t come to physical therapy, I am in too much pain

Some patients think that all physical therapy is is exercising and strengthening, but our main focus in physical therapy is the elimination of pain, so that we can progress to the strengthening aspect of care. If you are in pain, it is the perfect time to come to physical therapy. We have several options to help alleviate your pain and get you back on track to a full recovery in a more rapid manner. By addressing and alleviating your pain it will give us a better understanding of the root cause of the pain and allow us to provide the most effective plan of care to get you back on your feet and hopefully prevent further injury in the future.

Myth #4: Physical therapy is only for injuries

Physical therapists do a lot more than just stretch and strengthen muscles after an injury. They are trained to evaluate, diagnose, and treat certain aches and pains before they progress to the injury state. Injury prevention is the name of the game in physical therapy. If a patient comes in reporting lower back pain following an episode of weekend warrior hunting or camping, it is important for us to figure out the source of the pain and develop a plan to prevent it from progressing to a disc injury or other such injury that may inhibit the patient from performing even their normal daily tasks. Another example, which is backed by current research, is physical therapy in young female athletes to prevent a possible ACL tear. There is vast supportive research bank showing that identifying certain risk factors, such as poor jump mechanics and hip weakness and addressing those areas can prevent an ACL tear in the future.

Myth #5: Physical Therapy is only necessary after surgery

New research is showing that there are benefits to something that is being termed “Pre-hab”. Pre-hab is physical therapy prior to having a major surgery. The most compelling research is based on patients who are undergoing a total knee replacement. New research has shown that by doing 4-6 weeks of physical therapy prior to surgery, patients demonstrate a quicker recovery time, with less strength and mobility deficits post-operatively than those patients who only received therapy after surgery.

Myth #6: Any healthcare professional can perform physical therapy

Physical therapists go through a lot of schooling and must first get their undergraduate degree before going into three years of rigorous physical therapy specific training and then pass a national board exam before being given their license to practice physical therapy in the USA. Also, many physical therapists go on to get other certifications and special training following their graduate studies to improve their skills in a certain area. Physical therapy is and should always be administered by a licensed physical therapist.

Myth #7: Physical therapy isn’t covered by insurance

Most insurance policies cover some form of physical therapy. Physical therapy has been shown to reduce healthcare costs by helping patients avoid unnecessary and expensive imaging, surgery, or prescription medication. If you have questions about insurance, contact your insurance provider or give us a call today and maybe we can help.

Myth #8: Surgery is my only option

In many cases physical therapy has been shown to be as effective as surgery. Some of these conditions include but are not limited to: rotator cuff tears, degenerative disc disease, meniscus tears, and some knee osteoarthritis. In many cases physical therapy is a far less invasive and effective means of treatment for an array of injuries.

Myth #9: I can do physical therapy myself, there are a lot of Youtube videos…

Physical therapy is definitely a team sport. It is important to have good participation from the patient, but it is also helpful to have a skilled physical therapist to lead and direct your treatment in order to assist you to a quicker recovery. There is a lot of information on the internet and not all of it is accurate or helpful. As physical therapist we understand that time is short as is money, so we focus our efforts on a treatment plan that will get you back on track as quick as possible and keep you on track. Don’t trust online blogs and videos as your main resource to get you back to feeling good. We can work with your resources and establish a plan that fits you. There is no cookbook recipe for injury healing, let us customize your treatment plan for you.

Myth #10: I have chronic pain and nothing will help me besides medication

There is a fast growing bank of research that supports physical therapy as one of the most important treatment methods for chronic pain. Research has shifted the approach to chronic pain treatment and developed an all-encompassing team approach, with use of physicians, behavioral health, nutrition, and physical therapy. This team approach has been shown to be very effective in the management and treatment of chronic pain. We have a physical therapist who specializes in the treatment of chronic pain. Give us a call and see what a difference we can make

Myth #11: I have Jaw pain, but that needs to be treated by my dentist

The Temporomandibular joint (Jaw Joint) can be a main source of pain in a lot of people. This is due to a dysfunction that can occur from a muscle imbalance or joint restrictions and can coincide with headaches, neck pain, and other upper body aches and pains. There are physical therapist who specialize in the treatment of TMJ pain or TMJ dysfunction, we actually have one on our staff.

Hope, everyone enjoyed this “Myth Buster’s” session today and hope several of your possible misconceptions and barriers regarding therapy were blasted out of the way, so that you can allow us to help you move forward and feel better. Give us a call today and see the difference we can make!

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