Get Physical

Whether it’s an ongoing issue or something that popped up after that softball game, physical therapy helps patients recover more quickly

What is physical therapy used for?

“People typically see a physical therapist because they either have pain or a ‘physical’ problem that limits their everyday function,” says Julie Lombardo, physical therapist at Capitol Physical Therapy. “This can include pain in their back, neck, shoulder, hip, knee and ankle joints/muscles that may be caused by sports or everyday activities. PT can also [help with] balance, walking problems and generalized weakness.”

Physical therapist Dee Aussprung of Integrated Physical Therapy says that PT can help people get back to work and sports more quickly and safely, avoid surgery and/or more aggressive forms of treatment like injections.

Why do most people see a physical therapist?

“Far and away the most is back related problems. We frequently see patients where other courses of medical interventions have not succeeded,” says Aussprung. “We believe in teamwork with referring physicians and other providers to have a very detailed evaluation to try and find all of the possible root causes of pain or loss of function.”

Other common issues include sports and work injuries, pain in the neck, shoulder, hip, knee or ankle.

What results do people commonly see from a physical therapy routine?

“The goal is always to restore full joint range of motion, strength and function, but if that’s not possible, then to gain an amount that is considered functional, or as much as the person needs to perform their everyday routine well,” says Lombardo.

Aussprung adds that patient motivation and compliance of their home exercise program, age of the patient and the extent of injury or trauma to the joint may be limiting factors.

What are new or innovative techniques?

“The specialized physical therapist will be versed in many techniques,” explains Aussprung. “The most state-of-the-art treatments for musculoskeletal injuries are various hands-on treatments called manual therapy which include things like promoting functional control with Pilates, yoga, and physioball core stabilization and reducing muscular imbalances.” Both experts cite core strengthening in the deep abdominal and pelvic floor muscles as a newer focus for managing pain in these areas.

PT is now often used as a first stop in orthopedic care, says Lombardo. “Insurance companies are aware of the cost of multiple physician appointments and have recognized direct access [the patient’s ability to seek care from a physical therapist without a physician’s order] to aid in managing this cost. So we are seeing more patients before they have seen their physician for one or multiple visits, but for shorter periods of time.”

Quick Read: Men Vs. Women

Men and women may need to see a physical therapist for different reasons, say our experts.

“During pregnancy the joints are more lax, and women can put more strain on their lower back. Our pelvis can actually move [and adjust] during pregnancy—so, we see pelvic misalignment a lot,” says Aussprung.

Indeed, women will commonly see a physical therapist for pregnancy pain, incontinence, pelvic/vaginal pain, osteoporosis and female athletic injuries (ACL, or knee ligament injuries, are more common in women), and posture-related neck and shoulder pain, says Lombardo.

Men are often treated for occupation or sport injuries. Disc injuries, knee, back and shoulder pain are the result of more traumatic or degenerative conditions, versus posture-related issues.

Shayna Miller is associate editor of Madison Magazine.

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