N.C. — Nearly 2 million people receive physical therapy
every day, a number that’s likely to increase as the
population ages. And for many, it can be overwhelming and
intimidating. So we talked to three experts about what to
expect, the keys to getting better, and how to avoid
"PT" in the first place.
physical therapy necessary?
little aches and pains work themselves out in a day or
two," said Dr. David Aiken, manager for Carolinas
Rehabilitation’s Monroe and Ballantyne sites. "If
within a week or so it (the pain) hasn’t resolved on its own
or begins to affect your functionality, you should seek
Ball, a physical therapist and manager of Rehab Services at
Novant Health Huntersville Medical Center (formerly
Presbyterian Hospital Huntersville), said many people make the
mistake of waiting to seek treatment, hoping the pain will go
away. "The trouble is that certain injuries get worse
with time. An easy fix now could be a very complicated fix
down the road."
begins with a thorough assessment, said Nabila Tanas of Tanas
Physical Therapy, with offices in Raleigh and Cary, N.C. She
delves into the patient’s medical history, looking for
underlying causes. She also educates the patient about how
lifestyle changes may help.
therapy consists of multiple techniques, said Aiken, including
therapeutic exercises to restore strength and function, as
well as manual therapy, which is a "detailed
massage" designed to soothe soft tissue and loosen joints
specializes in the manipulation of muscles and soft tissue to
help relieve pain, either locally or elsewhere on the body
along nerve pathways. For instance, if a patient is suffering
from chronic headaches, the problem may stem from stiff
muscles in the neck or back.
requires patients to do exercises on their own. Experts agree
this key component of treatment is also the most neglected,
which can delay healing.
his patients motivated, Aiken said, he stresses the
correlation between the exercises and the outcome. "They
know if they do the exercises, not only will they feel better,
but they’ll be able to do things like play catch with their
kids or get through a work day without hurting."
common PT patient mistake is not keeping appointments with the
therapist, Tanas said. "You have to stick with a routine
— usually a few times a week," she said. "(PT) is
not something you can do sporadically."
also important to be honest with the therapist, Ball said.
"If you have a lot of job and family responsibilities, be
upfront about what is reasonable with your schedule — say
one treatment a week versus three."
I’m not getting better?
important part of PT is continually reassessing a patient’s
progress, Ball said. "At every appointment we ask what’s
working and what isn’t. This open dialogue provides an
opportunity for therapist and patient to go back to the
drawing board if necessary. By using a patient’s feedback
you can always adjust to make sure you’re on the right
of how well we take care of ourselves, over time the body
starts to break down and injuries are more likely. But there’s
a lot you can do to stay healthy. Ball said a fit lifestyle
pays big dividends later in life.
from our sleeping habits, stress management and level of
activity is very important as we get older…," Ball
said. "Being proactive is crucial to maintaining a high
quality of life."
Aiken: "If people work on their mobility and muscle
strength…they can still be active well into their 70s and
health insurance limits how many PT sessions you can have.
Insurance companies may also want to verify if you require PT
as the result of an on-the-job injury that either workers’
compensation or legal action could pay for, especially if the
injury was caused by an accident.
often more costly at hospitals compared to other practices.
Even if you receive therapy on an out-patient basis from a
hospital-affiliated practice, you may be billed at a higher
rate than other practices. Try to find out the billing rate
the practice will charge.