Why see a PT?

Learn more about the wide range of conditions treated by physical therapy.

Surgical Alternatives & Rehabilitative Medicine


Dealing with an injury? Physical therapy is often the best start towards recovery. Or are you facing surgery? Consider physical therapy first. A growing body of research supports physical therapy as an alternative to surgery, especially for back, knee and rotator cuff issues. Physical therapy is a non-invasive way to treat and rehabilitate injuries and illnesses by reducing inflammation, increasing strength, and improving mobility. If non-surgical options fail, physical therapy can play a major role in recovery. In fact, physical therapy is a key part of recovery from nearly any operation. Why? After surgery, bones, muscles, and soft tissues start to heal. If you do not use them, they can heal improperly—causing pain and limiting your range of motion, function, and mobility. PTs & PTAs work with you to keep you moving. They ensure that your surgery is a success by making sure you heal properly, while also helping you avoid long-term pain and medication. Susan broke her neck when she fell from a horse and was left totally paralyzed. Even after an operation, she only had limited use of the left side of her body and could not use her hands, sit up, or walk. Watch how, with the help of physical therapy, she started walking again.




Fall Prevention


Falls are the leading cause of fatal injury among people 65 and older. Two-thirds of seniors who fall will do so again within six months. But falls can be prevented with physical therapy. PTs & PTAs provide fall risk screenings, which examine any issues that could cause a fall, including decreased strength, balance problems, difficulty walking, medication effects, impaired vision, cognition issues, health conditions and more. Each fall risk screening is then used to tailor an individualized program geared toward strengthening balance, overcoming impairment, and improving mobility. PTs can provide a fall risk screening in any setting. Physical therapy services can be provided in a patient’s home, hospital, medical clinic, nursing home, a senior or community center like the YMCA, or even via telehealth.
Falls are the leading cause of injury for those 65 and older. Watch to learn more about how physical therapy can prevent falls from happening.




Chronic Pain


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends physical therapy as a non-medicinal alternative to opioid painkillers (such as oxycontin and fentanyl) and other prescription drugs. Why? Because prescription pain relievers only mask pain, while physical therapy treats the underlying causes of pain. In fact, pain is often the reason why people enter the health care system. Over the last 20 years, health care providers have increasingly tried to help patients manage chronic pain by prescribing opioids. The misuse and overuse of these highly addictive medications has fueled a raging epidemic which kills 115 Americans every day. In Florida alone, prescription drugs are responsible for more than 60 percent of all narcotics found in drug-related deaths. Opioid use disorders increased more than 750 percent over the past 26 years in Florida, according to a 2018 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.​ ​Physical therapists and physical therapy assistants are on the front lines of Florida’s battle against chronic pain and opioid misuse. Physical therapy can help treat chronic pain and even assist with recovery from opioid addiction.
Watch Floridians living with chronic pain, fibromyalgia and other health conditions discuss how physical therapy treated their pain, while restoring movement and mobility. “I couldn’t play with my kids. I couldn’t play sports. Pain medication basically made it to where I didn’t want to do those things, and physical therapy showed me that I actually can.” - Doug Scott Read more about Doug’s story: The Florida Times-Union/News Addicted to opioids, Jacksonville man says physical therapy saved him Read More > PT For Pain "I would have ended up with a needle in my arm or I would have OD’ed" Read More >




Sports Medicine


Physical therapy can help athletes of all skill levels treat injuries and improve athletic performance.

PTs are experts in identifying, minimizing, and correcting sports-related injuries, as well as working with athletes to reduce the risk of injury.
“Physical therapy is a key component not only to recovery from injury or surgery, but it’s also a key to continuing to pursue your goals throughout your entire life.” – Sarah, Triathlete Sarah suffered a shoulder injury and had to quit competing. But with the help of physical therapy, she now has full range of motion in her shoulder and is even competing in triathlons. Watch how.




Wellness & Prevention


Physical therapy isn’t just for when you have a health issue or a setback. PTs are experts in movement and exercise prescription. Wherever you are in life, you can benefit from physical therapy to improve the quality of your life by introducing safe physical activity, improving your strength, or enhancing your occupational or athletic performance. Exercise has been shown to optimize your immune system, decrease mortality and lower risks of heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. Increased physical activity, better sleep habits, nutrition and stress management strategies are the cornerstones for better quality of life. The right PT can guide you on the path to better health and lower your risk of illness and injury.
Choose more movement and choose better health through physical therapy.




Degenerative Disease Management


Physical therapy can help slow disease progression, prevent muscle atrophy and even help regain mobility for people living with conditions such as Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, Guillain-Barre syndrome and more. Physical therapy can increase mobility, strength, power, flexibility and balance—and help you remain independent, even as you live with progressive illness. Michael, an avid biker, learned he had multiple sclerosis, and soon after, wasn’t even able to ride his bike out of the driveway. But then he started physical therapy. Ten years later, he is walking and even riding his bike. Watch to learn how PT helps Michael stay active.
“I knew physical therapy was the only thing that was going to get me back to being a physical therapist again.” - Jamie Dyson
Jamie, a long-time trauma care PT, was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome—and knew from having treated patients with this condition, that he needed physical therapy. Watch to see how Jamie has control over his symptoms and is even back to work doing what he loves: changing lives through physical therapy!




Pelvic Health


Physical therapy is an important factor in a woman’s overall health—not only for pelvic health, but also for overall body alignment.

Pelvic health PTs treat individuals who have urinary or fecal incontinence (aka leakage), pelvic pain, pelvic organ prolapse, and pain during intercourse. Pelvic health PTs work with women during pregnancy and/or during the postpartum period to address pelvic girdle or low back pain, C-section scars or perineal pain, and they also develop post-partum return to exercise plans. They also work with patients undergoing treatment for pelvic cancers and /or people experiencing lymphedema as a result of cancer treatment.

Pelvic health PTs also treat individuals following gender affirmation surgery or surgeries to address musculoskeletal pain, incontinence, and sexual function. Pelvic health physical therapists treat both adults and children.

Pelvic health PTs work closely with gynecologists, urologists, pain medicine, primary care, family medicine, and physiatry. They also collaborate with sexual therapists/counselors, clinical and health psychologists, dieticians, personal trainers or coaches.




Pediatric Care


Pediatric physical therapy makes everyday activities easier for infants and children by improving range of motion, strength, flexibility, and movement patterns. Pediatric physical therapists are uniquely trained to understand many conditions that affect children throughout their growing years. Pediatric PTs understand how development progresses and how to engage children at their developmental level to guide them toward better motor function through a play-based approach.

Children with developmental delays, congenital conditions, or specific diagnoses such as cerebral palsy, autism spectrum disorder, Down syndrome or torticollis can't experience the world as easily as children who are developing typically. They often need to be trained to move their bodies more successfully and appropriately.

Pediatric PTs understand not only the child's skill levels, but the potential progressions that may result from not only the primary condition but also the rapid body changes that occur as children continue to grow. For example, baby with unresolved torticollis may later have trouble with their ability to scan left to right (such as for reading), a child with autism who likes to walk on their toes because it feels good may eventually need special orthotics for stability or even orthopedic intervention for muscle tightness in their calves. Children with neurological conditions such as cerebral palsy may require specialized equipment to be able to successfully attend school and keep their bodies safely aligned.




COVID-19 Recovery


Although much is still to be known about the lasting effects of COVID-19, physical therapy is already shown to greatly help patients regain physical strength and lung capacity. Depending on the severity of the disease caused by COVID-19 and the toll it took on the body, physical therapy may be necessary for successful recovery from COVID-19. PTs can combat mobility issues arising from bed rest and muscle atrophy to respiratory system difficulties due to lung strain and ventilator use.




Concussion and Traumatic Brain Injury


Physical therapists and PT assistants play a critical role in the health care team which evaluates the severity of concussions and brain injuries, as well as helping patients throughout their rehabilitation journey.

Specifically, physical therapy may be used to address physical, cognitive, visual, and behavioral issues through functional activity training, fall prevention, caregiver education and more.




Wound Care & Lymphedema Management


Physical therapists help heal wounds using a range of procedures, including UV and/or laser therapy, multilayer compression bandaging, removal and management of scar tissue, and more.

Physical therapy can help in the management of lymphedema—swelling in an arm or leg caused by a lymphatic system blockage or disruption, which is often due to the removal of lymph nodes or an obstruction in the lymphatic system. Physical therapists and PT assistants perform manual lymphatic drainage and massage, and prescribe exercises to help patients control swelling and return to normal activity.




Cancer Care


Optimizing function, as well as quality of life, is incredibly important for people to survive or live with cancer. That’s why physical therapists and PT assistants provide treatment as part of a cancer care team. They proactively manage the side effects of interventions such as radiation, chemotherapy and surgery, as well as provide long-term rehabilitation—and appropriate palliative care—to help maintain strength, maximize mobility, minimize fatigue and pain, and more. “Without physical therapy, I would still be in a wheelchair.” – Carly Graham, Brain Tumor Survivor Carly had a brain tumor, and although surgeons were able to remove it, she was left paralyzed. See here how with the help of physical therapy, she is now walking and doing activities she could never have done before.




Explore Even More Conditions Treated by Physical Therapy


Curious about how PT can treat your specific health needs? Click to research a full range of issues treated by PT via the American Physical Therapy Association.





More reasons to consider PT:

 

  • Early access to physical therapy saves about $5,000 in annual health care costs for every patient over the following two years. [1],[2]

  • Physical therapy gives patients power over pain, decreasing the need for prescription pain management, whose misuse is thought to increase health care and substance abuse treatment costs by $29 billion every year. [3]

 

  • Florida and other states that allow patients direct access to physical therapy services save money. Research demonstrates that the average cost for physical therapy claims is lower for patients who visit a physical therapist directly ($347) than for patients referred by a physician ($420). Additionally, patients who visit a physical therapist directly for outpatient care had 86 percent fewer visits on average than those who were referred by a physician. [4]

 

  • The American Heart Association encourages patients with heart disease to see a physical therapist for the initial treatment of pain as an alternative to prescription medications. [5]
     

  • The U.S. Surgeon General believes physical therapy has a critical role in solving the opioid crisis, as well as in the transition to value-based care. "It's an indisputable fact that physical therapists are well-positioned to change the culture around pain management," said former U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, MD, MPH. "We know that physical therapy is going to be a part of the evolution toward value-based care." [6]
     

  • Early use of physical therapy holds the promise of reducing opioid use among patients with musculoskeletal pain, according to a large-scale study published in the Journal of American Medicine (JAMA) Network Open. The study concludes that for patients experiencing back, knee, neck, or shoulder pain, a visit to a physical therapist (PT) early on can reduce the chances that they'll take any opioids for the condition. [7]

[1] Childs JD, Fritz JM, Wu SS, Flynn TW, Wainner RS, Robertson EK, Kim FS, George SZ. Implications of early and guideline adherent physical therapy for low back pain on utilization and costs. BMC Health Serv Res. 2015; 15: 150.

[2] Fritz JM, Brennan GP, Hunter SJ. Physical Therapy or Advanced Imaging as First Management Strategy Following a New Consultation for Low Back Pain in Primary Care: Associations with Future Health Care Utilization and Charges. Health Serv Res. 2015 Dec; 50(6): 1927–1940.

[3] Florence CS1, Zhou C, Luo F, Xu L. The Economic Burden of Prescription Opioid Overdose, Abuse, and Dependence in the United States. Med Care. 2016 Oct;54(10):901-6. DOI: 10.1097/MLR.0000000000000625.

[4] Pendergast J, Kliethermes A, Freburger J, Duffy, P. A Comparison of Health Care Use for Physician-Referred and Self-Referred Episodes of Outpatient Physical Therapy. Health Services Research, 2011; DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-6773.2011.01324.x

[5] Elliott MA, Bennett JS, Daugherty A, Furberg C, Roberts H, Taubert KA. Use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs: An update for clinicians: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2007:115:1634-1642.

[6] 'No Bigger Fan': US Surgeon General Believes the Physical Therapy Profession is a Key Player in the Fight Against Opioid Misuse; APTA In Motion News. Jan. 24, 2019.

[7] Sun, Eric, Moshfegh, Jasmine, et al. Association of Early Physical Therapy With Long-term Opioid Use Among Opioid-Naive Patients With Musculoskeletal Pain. JAMA Network Open. Dec. 14, 2018.