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Why Physical Therapy?

The American Physical Therapy Association ("APTA") website includes a non-technical guide for patients which explains Physical Therapy ("Physiotherapy"), with various examples of applications and benefits.

With thanks and attribution, we republish here some informative extracts.

Improve Mobility & Motion

reprinted from ", the official consumer Web site of the American Physical Therapy Association, ©[2011]
Why Therapy? Mobility Improvement

No matter what area of the body ails you – neck, shoulder, back, knee – physical therapists have an established history of helping individuals improve their quality of life.

A physical therapist can help you move freely again without pain and discomfort and feeling renewed and ready to move on. They can even help you prevent an injury altogether.

For instance, a study of 1,435 NCAA Division 1 female soccer players demonstrated that those who participated in a physical therapy program had an overall ACL injury rate 41 percent lower than those who did only a regular warm-up prior to practice. (source American Journal of Sports Medicine August, 2008)

Because physical therapists receive specialized education in a variety of sciences – physics, human anatomy, kinesiology (human movement), to name a few – they understand how the body works and how to get you moving again. They know how to manage all four of the body's major systems – musculoskeletal, neuromuscular, cardiovascular/pulmonary, and integumentary (skin) – to restore and maximize mobility.

Whether you are living with diabetes or recovering from a stroke, a fall, or a sports injury, a physical therapist is a trusted health care professional who will work closely with you to evaluate your condition and develop an effective, personalized plan of care. A physical therapist can help you achieve long-term results for many conditions that limit your ability to move.

Reduce the Risk of Injury

While playing a round of golf or picking up around the house may seem harmless, but these everyday activities can result in injury due to abnormal movement, stress on joints and strain on muscles.

Because physical therapists are experts in knowing how the body works, they are able to design personalized treatment plans to reduce the risk of injury whether in everyday activities or sports.

For example, women perform athletic tasks in a more upright position, putting added stress on parts of the knee such as the ACL, resulting in less controlled rotation of the joint. While men use their hamstring muscles more often, women rely more on their quadriceps, which puts the knee at constant risk. To combat these natural tendencies, your physical therapist may develop a treatment program to improve strength, flexibility, and coordination, as well as to counteract incorrect existing patterns of movement that may be damaging to joints.

Improve Balance and Prevent Falls

Falls among the elderly are prevalent, dangerous, and can diminish their ability to lead an active and independent life. According to the National Aging Council, about one in three seniors above age 65, and nearly one in two seniors over age 80, will fall at least once this year, many times with disastrous consequences. A physical therapist can help you prevent falls by designing an individualized program of exercises and activities with an emphasis on strength, flexibility, and proper gait.

Balance may be improved with exercises that strengthen the ankle, knee, and hip muscles and with exercises that improve the function of the vestibular (balance) system.

Once a physical therapist has reviewed a complete medical history and conducted a thorough examination, he or she will develop a personalized plan of care. This may include a walking regimen with balance components such as changes in surfaces/terrains, distance, and elevations; Tai Chi (which emphasizes balance, weight shifting, coordination, and postural training); and aquatics classes geared toward balance and coordination. The physical therapist also may teach specific strengthening and balance exercises that can be performed at home. If necessary, the physical therapist will refer you to other medical professionals, such as an ophthalmologist or neurologist.

Recover From Stroke

Stroke is the number three cause of death in the U.S, (source American Heart Association) and is the leading cause of serious long-term disability. If stroke strikes you or a loved one, a physical therapist can help you regain function and cope with physical losses associated with stroke, such as decreased ability to move.

Rehabilitation begins as soon as the stroke survivor is stable, and the health care team works to match patient and family desires with patient abilities. The majority of survivors of stroke will receive physical therapy as part of the rehabilitation process. Your physical therapist will develop an individualized treatment plan which may include prescribing exercise and other activities to improve movement, help facilitate independence, and regain your quality of life after stroke.

Recent advances in neuroscience have had a significant impact on rehabilitation for stroke survivors. As part of research funded by the National Institutes of Health, scientists who are physical therapists are determining how new techniques can help promote motor recovery after a stroke. For example, physical therapists are using methods such as restricting the arm that was less affected by the stroke to encourage more effort from the affected arm. Treadmill training with the use of body-weight support and the assistance of a physical therapist can help people recover walking ability.

If you have problems with movements of the arm or leg that affect your everyday function, a physical therapist can help determine if you are an appropriate candidate for these and other innovative physical therapy interventions.

Live With Diabetes

Diabetes is a growing health issue that affects approximately 24 million adults and children in the United States. (source American Diabetes Association)

If you have diabetes, a physical therapist can work with you to design a program that helps control your glucose and fight complications such as loss of movement. While aerobic exercise is often recommended for the treatment of type 2 diabetes, a recent study found that adding high-force strength training to an aerobic program offered significant advantages, helping to improve glucose control, increase strength, and reduce the risk of falls among study participants.

People with diabetes often have reduced muscle mass, and, as a result, mobility. Adding resistance training to a diabetes treatment program leads to improved thigh lean tissue which, in turn, may be an important way to increase resting metabolic rate, protein reserve, exercise tolerance, and functional mobility. As experts in motion, physical therapists are ideally suited to help people with diabetes safely and effectively address their loss of movement.

Avoid Surgery

reprinted from ", the official consumer Web site of the American Physical Therapy Association, ©[2011] Why Therapy? Avoid Surgery

Physical therapists can help you avoid painful, invasive and expensive surgery, in many instances.

Research shows that physical therapy, combined with comprehensive medical management, is just as effective as surgery when it comes to relieving the pain and stiffness of moderate to severe osteoarthritis of the knee. (source New England Journal of Medicine September, 2008)

Pursuing an exercise program designed by a physical therapist can be one of the best protections from injury and surgery. Explore the many ways in which a physical therapist can help you improve your mobility.

Eliminate Pain Without Medication

reprinted from ", the official consumer Web site of the American Physical Therapy Association, ©[2011] Why Therapy? Pain Relief

Physical therapists can help reduce and manage pain, including low back pain, which affects up to 80 percent of Americans during their lifetime. Physical therapy that mobilizes the spine along with specific exercises can help alleviate the pain and can have long-lasting effects. (source Spine, July 2008)

If you are at risk of heart disease, the American Heart Association encourages seeing a physical therapist for the initial treatment of pain resulting from tendinitis/bursitis, degenerative joint problems (osteoarthritis), and inflammatory joint problems (rheumatoid arthritis), rather than prescription pain medication. (source Circulation, February 2007)

Physical therapists are a great alternative to medication and surgery for musculoskeletal pain. Research shows individuals who receive active physical therapy experience greater improvement in function and decreased pain intensity. (source Spine, July 2008)

No matter what part of your body hurts, a physical therapist can help you alleviate or manage pain without costly medication or other invasive methods, in many cases. (source Spine, July 2008)

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