4 Top Reasons Physical Therapy is Important
By Ehren Allen, PT/Certified Orthopedic Manual Therapist
Physical therapy has become the treatment of choice for most injuries. Research shows that patients who go to PT have a much higher chance of avoiding surgery. Physical Therapy also improves outcomes after injuries and surgeries. The evidence is so strong that many insurance companies now require that patients receive physical therapy care prior to authorizing MRIs and advanced testing. This is because many patients will improve with PT without the advanced testing. Of course, there are exceptions with severe injuries. Below are the 4 top reasons physical therapy is important.
4 Top Reasons Physical Therapy is Important
1. Physical Therapy is Conservative Care
It is best to limit invasive health care if possible. Physical therapy helps to improve mobility and strength. This helps with recovery from injuries but it also can help prevent further injuries later. Helping the body function better and properly is an important part of recovery. A physical therapist can analyze, diagnose, and treatment movement disorders which have come from injuries or are causing pain. It is important to remember that the body has a remarkable capability to heal itself. Physical therapy promotes that process.
2. Physical Therapy Improves Outcomes
When the body is injured, the brain alters muscle activity to protect the injured area. This is a neurological response to pain and swelling. The problem is that once the body is healed, the muscle activity does not always return to normal. Physical therapy addresses these issues and helps to restore normal neuromuscular activity. This improves the outcome after injuries.
Joint stiffness is common after an injury. With shoulder injuries, for example, patients can develop frozen shoulder. Frozen shoulder limits normal mobility and can be very painful. Early physical therapy after a shoulder injury or surgery can help to maintain normal movement and range of motion.
3. A Physical Therapist can Screen for Issues that may Require a Physician
Historically, patients were seen by a physician, then referred for diagnostic testing. Then they were referred to physical therapy as a last resort. We now know that it is vital to begin physical therapy early to help avoid complications and promote faster healing. The physical therapy profession has evolved over the past 30 years. Physical therapists now enter the profession with a doctoral level of education. The training for a physical therapist includes medical screening, diagnostic imaging, and pharmocology. While in most states physical therapists do not prescribe medications or order films, they are educated to review medications and screen for issues which may require a referral to a physician.
4. Physical Therapy Saves Money
Studies show that early physical therapy decreases the total cost of care for many patients. In 2004, Starbucks requested that their employees with uncomplicated low back pain be sent to physical therapy as the first line of treatment before ordering tests and films. This request came after they analyzed the treatments of their employees and found that they almost always ended up in physical therapy after all the tests and films were ordered. By placing physical therapy at the beginning of the treatment plan, the majority of patients recovered without requiring further tests or films. This significantly lowered the cost of their care.
Many insurance companies have adopted this process and now require a trial of physical therapy before they will cover diagnostic imaging or other advanced testing.
In summary, physical therapy is a common and appropriate conservative treatment for many injuries. Early physical therapy makes a difference!
JOI Physicians are currently offering ASAP fracture and injury care. This is a new option for patients who would like to avoid the emergency room if they have suffered a fracture or soft tissue injury. To learn more about this service, read this article about fracture and injury care. Make an appointment by calling (904)JOI-2000.
If you would like to see a physical therapist, the Jacksonville Orthopedic Institute can help. JOI offers physical therapy in 12 locations in Northeast Florida as well as orthpedic doctors and surgeons. Call JOI-2000 or click the link below to schedule an appointment.