Physical therapy myths often confuse and discourage people from seeking care. They may not seek second opinions regarding their musculoskeletal health.
The reasons range from fear of pain to therapy not working for a friend. We address these myths and encourage you you to find out for yourself by seeing one of our licensed physical therapists.
The Physical Therapy Myths
Physical therapy equals pain
Some aspects of physical therapy might be painful, like regaining range of motion. The intent of manual therapy or exercise aren’t to elicit pain, but heal pain.
Often, if a patient is coming after surgery or an acute onset of pain, certain aspects of treatment might be painful. However, with continued therapy, your pain should decrease outside of therapy. Aspects that were painful early on become more comfortable.
Seen one physical therapist, you’ve seen them all
The goal of physical therapy should always be the same. Restore function or relieve pain, but every therapist is different.
Therapists specialize in different techniques or interventions. They have different personalities and develop different concepts to their treatment approach.
Also, due to different education and experience backgrounds, therapists develop different treatment “philosophies”. Their required continuing education and research expectations keep your treatments current and evidence-based.
After determining your individualized evaluation and assessment, these variables direct a general treatment program.
Regardless, our common goal means addressing your symptoms, concerns and individual therapy goals.
Physical therapists only need a certificate to treat you
Current and recent graduates in physical therapy require a bachelor’s degree. A Doctorate in Physical Therapy (DPT) requires an additional three years of post-graduate schooling.
Curriculum upgrades to the doctorate level increased the level of differential diagnosis and musculoskeletal education. This allows a physical therapist to become a front line healthcare provider. In other words, they’re able to see a patient prior to having a doctor’s referral.
To remain licensed, therapists must complete continuing education every two years. This occurs while keeping their treatments rooted in recent evidence and techniques. This combination lays a strong foundation for hands-on experience and evolves a therapist’s approach to treating each patient and diagnoses.
You need a doctor’s referral for physical therapy
Texas, now a direct access state, allows a patient to see a physical therapist without a doctor’s referral.
Stipulations exist which means your therapist must have a DPT or a licensed PT with a certain level of differential diagnosis continuing education completed.
However, that does not always mean your insurance provides the same coverage as with a doctor’s referral.
We recommend contacting your insurance company to determine your physical therapy coverage without a physician’s referral.
Insurance won’t cover physical therapy
Every insurance plan is different!
Most plans offer coverage for physical therapy, but the level or amount of coverage they offer can be significantly different. Prior to beginning therapy with us, we will verify your insurance and let you know your financial responsibilities.
You need to be in pain for physical therapy
Many people require physical therapy, but not for pain.
In fact, many patients eliminate their pain while in physical therapy, but continue with the program to further reach their goals.
Other reasons to need physical therapy include:
- improving gait and balance
- improving joint stability with functional activities
- to prevent injury or surgery
- post-stroke and neurological rehab
- improving functional strength, mobility and safety.
Nothing more than massage
Even though soft tissue manipulation may be performed, physical therapy involves more than any form of massage.
Patients benefit most from a specific program which:
- focuses on strengthening
- restoring range of motion
- improving proprioception/balance/stability
- involves a sports specific regimen for athletes (to name a few)
Physical therapy often utilizes “manual therapy” with many different subsections depending on the treatment.
Soft-tissue mobilization and deep-tissue/myofascial release employ techniques similar to massage, but are specific to trigger points and other tissue dysfunction.
Joint mobilizations and manual traction can fall under manual therapy. They’re both used to improve joint mobility and movement which does not address soft-tissues like muscles and tendons.
Not to mention, your program involves specific strengthening, stability and mobility components not involved in a massage.
For injuries only
Often, patients need physical therapy for chronic issues. These issues may never involve a “traumatic” or a specific injury.
Patients may suffer from overuse or degenerative conditions. Treatment will be beneficial in decreasing pain and improving function and symptoms.
For example, an arthritis diagnosis can lead to physical therapy without a specific injury. As mentioned above, gait and balance are within the scope of physical therapy practice.
Surgery more effective
Plenty of research exists regarding physical therapy’s effectiveness and significantly lower cost when compared to surgery.
Of course, situations exist where surgery becomes the preferred remedy. On occasion, we refer patients to surgeons.
One more thought. Musculoskeletal related surgery often means physical therapy rehab for complete recovery.
Before getting surgery, don’t be afraid to get a couple of opinions.
- Study Says Cost Savings of Physical Therapy for LBP (lower back pain) Are Significant
- Payers: Embrace the Value of Physical Therapy to Reduce Costs
- Surgery vs. physical therapy for rotator cuff tears
Any medical professional can do physical therapy
Often, when a patient gets referred to us, we’ll evaluate the chain of interrelated muscle groups. We do this to enhance the prescribing physician’s original diagnosis.
Once you’ve finished physical therapy, you’re done
When therapy discontinues, our PT’s develop home exercise programs for patient to continue on a regular basis.
PT = nothing more than exercise
Physical therapists use a whole range of modalities to treat pain, reduce joint pain, relax muscles and soft tissue.
Physical therapy can’t fix you
As a patient, you contribute to your “fix”. Often, patients who don’t follow prescribed treatments struggle to completely heal.
PT puts you on a path to regaining your quality of life. You learn proper technique and form from a licensed professional.
In our experience, we’ve found patients who continue exercises outside of therapy heal quicker.
Post therapy patients, who practice what they’ve been taught, maintain and improve their long term healing process.
After diagnosis or surgery, you’ll wait a long time for treatment
While that may be a true statement about some physical therapy programs, it doesn’t fit ours. We pride ourselves on seeing patients within 24-36 hours.
Physical therapy provides little or no privacy
We’ve had patients describe other practices where a curtain was the only privacy provided. Without a doubt, we understand why patients want privacy. This means our clinics have private exam rooms with real doors.
Physical therapy didn’t work for somebody else which means it won’t work for me
Different reasons exist why physical therapy didn’t decrease pain or help a patient reach their goals. Every individual’s experience will be different. Every patient’s PT experience can be affected by:
- their pain tolerance
- differences in how well they heal
- compliance with the home exercise program
Physical therapy a time waster
Re-gaining your quality of life is never a waste of time.
Personally, we’ve had patients who couldn’t enjoy time with their grandchildren or the daily activities of life without pain.
With physical therapy and guidance, their lives changed for the better. How can that be a waste of time?
You’ll feel worse after physical therapy
Re-activating muscles and improving motion means you might feel soreness. As a result, adept physical therapists test and review your situation before recommending a treatment plan. They do this to prevent pain, both in your muscles and joints.