MYTHBUSTING: PHYSICAL THERAPY
This week’s mythbusting episode explores everything physical therapy or as known around the world, physiotherapy (with a little help from our business partner, Ben Fung, who is visiting all the way from San Diego!). Despite having great patient satisfaction overall, physical therapy is still a relative unknown in its ability to help individuals with a wide array of issues. Today’s episode dives into some of those reasons why, what physical therapy is, and what a physical therapist can do for you.
Myth 1: “You need a physician referral or insurance to see a PT.”
In all 50 states physical therapists have at least some form of direct access. Some states have unlimited direct access, meaning you can see them whenever, without any stipulation. Where as other states have limited, meaning that the physical therapist can still see you directly but may need to contact your physician within a certain number of days after an evaluation.
Also, insurance is not a prerequisite to see a physical therapist. Many physical therapists are out-of-network or cash-based, willing and able to see you for an out of pocket cost to yourself. Although this may seem like more cost up front, it is becoming more of the norm with deductibles reaching as high as 4,000-6,000 dollars.
The only exception to these direct access rules is that if you are under Medicare or Medicaid you require some form of plan of care from your physician before continuing care with your physical therapist. A referral is recommended to maintain good communication between your healthcare team, ensuring that everyone is on the same page.
Myth 2: “PT’s only treat muscle/bone injuries or help with my knee/hip replacement.”
Physical therapists treat a wide variety of musculoskeletal and neurological related issues. These can include but are not limited to: Headaches, pelvic floor issues, jaw pain, vestibular and balance issues, wound care, and performance training in addition to any ache or pain that may be affecting the way you move. The second to last on that list, performance training, pertains to a variety of positions that physical therapists can fill but often is associated with them bridging the gap between rehab and performance. They do this in combination with an interdisciplinary team in sports settings.
Physical therapists may more broadly be looked at as being able to treat anything that involves movement. This doesn’t simply mean squatting or walking, but can also include all the health systems of your body that can affect how you move or keep you from moving that may affect your quality of life. These can range again from balance issues, to incontinence, or a headache that is keeping you down.
Myth 3: “When I do physical therapy all the physical therapists have me do is come for 8 weeks/3x a week doing strengthening and stretching exercises for 3×10 three times a day.”
First, people don’t “do” physical therapy, they go to see “their” physical therapist. This is because seeing a physical therapist means that you are getting some plan prescribed specifically for you, tailored to your health and lifestyle based on an expert assessment.
Part of this plan involves a great deal of you being active in the plan of care. Your plan of care should be challenging and effective in meeting your goals. These goals should be addressed by your physical therapist and discussed frequently. Don’t blindly go along with whatever plan is established. It is the goal of an expert physical therapist to adjust to how you respond to the prescribed plan on the fly and optimize to meet your goals and needs.
Overall, the goal of a physical therapist is to not have you do a cookie cutter plan that they dish out for everyone. The goal of a great physical therapist is to dose and prescribe an optimal plan that has you be in the drivers seat so that together you two can achieve the goals that you set together. For some this may be seeing a physical therapist multiple times a week, where as for others it may be seeing them once a month. That dosage and communication is key to adhering to the plan that is best for you and your goals.
Myth 4: “Oh I had PT before… Pain and Torture or Physical Terrorist”
Pain is complicated and affects us all differently based on a multitude of things including our past experiences with pain. Pain is an experience and an important one at that. We understand the above quote is often said jokingly, but the idea that a physical therapists goal is to ever cause you direct pain is not a reputation we want to have. Pain is inevitably going to come up in almost everyone’s experience with a physical therapist but it is the ability for you and your physical therapist to come to a common idea of what pain is, is what’s important.
If both the patient and the physical therapist learn to develop this mutual understanding of your own pain then the plan of care that can be established can work towards helping live with certain pains or eliminate it completely. This ability requires both sides to to listen and understand one another in a way that works towards goals, not work towards simply causing you as the patient pain.
DO YOU NEED A PHYSICAL THERAPIST IN ELLICOTT CITY OR SURROUNDING HOWARD COUNTY AREA?
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