What sort of treatments do Physical Therapists use?
Physical Therapists use a wide range of skills including manipulation, mobilization, massage and exercises, often aided by the use of sophisticated electronic and electrical apparatus - all designed to help in the relief of pain and to promote healing. Preventative measures are very important in physical therapy. The therapist will spend time teaching the patient how to avoid recurrence of his/her problem.
How does a Physical Therapist decide the best form of treatment?
Physical Therapists undertake a thorough assessment of each problem. This will involve a detailed examination, together with an understanding of your work, rest and recreational activities.
This full assessment may identify a problem which originates some distance from where the pain is felt. It also ensures that the diagnosis and treatment will relate to you and your whole lifestyle. After full consultation with you and your physical therapist, and possibly your doctor, the best form of treatment will be decided on.
How does Physical Therapy differ from the "alternative" forms of treatment?
The methods used by 'alternative' therapies differ widely, but most of the theories and principles which govern them are included as standard practice in Physical Therapy, which is the 'mainstream approach'.
Physical Therapy is a medically recognised treatment with physical therapists working closely with primary care physicians, specialists and most importantly with you in the center of the team.
Many physical therapists have developed additional skills in areas such as myofascial massage, accupressure, accupuncture, fabrication of orthotics and biomechanical assessment.
Do I have to be referred by a doctor?
No, not necessarily. You may consult a physical therapist without a doctor’s referral, but contact will usually be maintained between your doctor and Physical Therapist. Physical Therapists work in close co-operation with doctors in much the same way as specialists do, and this relationship is for the ultimate benefit for you, the patient. Generally, if you wish to pay for your physical therapy treatment with your insurance, you will need a doctor's referral to activate your insurance.
Do I need to bring anything with me?
Please bring your doctor's referral and insurance card with you to your first appointment. Dress in loose, comfortable clothing that allows access to the problem area. If you have a knee problem, you may wish to bring shorts with you.
If you have a running-related problem, please bring your running shoes with you so they can be assessed.
We may ask you about any medications you are taking so you may want to bring a list of any medications you are taking, particularly any medications for treatment of pain, arthritic conditions or inflammation.
How long does each visit last?
We are happy to accommodate your schedule but please plan for 60 to 90 minutes. The first visit normally takes the most time as we need to take a medical history and perform a physical assessment.
What will happen during my visit?
During your first visit you will be asked to complete some paperwork related to your insurance and referral. You may receive an email ahead of time with this paperwork for you to complete in advance in order to save you time.
Your therapist will then take a full medical history as well as a history of the problem for which you are seeking treatment. We aim to treat the cause of the problem rather than only the symptoms in order to prevent recurrence.
Following the history, you will have a physical examination including postural alignment, mechanics of movement, strength, flexibility and palpation of your painful areas.
After all the examination, you will have a treatment which may include massage, instruction in exercises, and 'modalities' such as heat, ultrasound, electrical stimulation and laser.
What is the purpose of the home exercise program?
In order to maintain the gains and improvement you will experience during your physical therapy visits, it is important to follow the home exercise program you have been prescribed. The exercises are generally designed to strengthen weak muscles, lengthen tight structures and help you improve the way you move. You can also help yourself avoid future recurrences of the problem if you continue with your home exercises after you have completed your course of physical therapy.
Will I feel better immediately?
Response from one treatment to the next will vary. While the aim is to get you as close to pain free as possible as quickly as possible, you may sometimes experience discomfort during or after the treatment. This should never be severe and any discomfort should normally resolve within 48 hours.
During your treatment, your therapist may use deep tissue massage which can be uncomfortable. Most people experience this as a 'good pain' that feels like it is helping. That is because it is beneficial! Please always communicate how you are feeling with your therapist and that will ensure you do not have any more discomfort than you can tolerate.