October is National Physical Therapy Month. In 1981, Physical Therapy Month started as Physical Therapy Week in June. National Physical Therapy Week became National Therapy Month and was moved to October in 1992 so as not to conflict with the American Physical Therapy Assosiation’s annual conference and exposition held each June.
What is physical therapy?
Physical therapy is a type of treatment you may need when health problems make it hard to move around and do everyday tasks. It helps you move better and may relieve pain. It also helps improve or restore your physical function and your fitness level.
The goal of physical therapy is to make daily tasks and activities easier. For example, it may help with walking, going up stairs, or getting in and out of bed.
Physical therapy can help with recovery after some surgeries. Your doctor may suggest physical therapy for injuries or long-term health problems such as arthritis or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
How can physical therapy help?
Physical therapy can help you recover from an injury and avoid future injury. Your physical therapist can help you reduce pain in the soft tissues (muscles, tendons, and ligaments), build muscle strength, and improve flexibility, function, and range of motion. He or she can also evaluate how you do an activity and make suggestions for doing the activity in a way that is less likely to result in an injury.
Physical therapy and chronic health conditions:
Physical therapy can help you live more easily with chronic or ongoing health conditions such as spinal stenosis, arthritis, and Parkinson’s disease. Your physical therapist will work with you to establish your goals. Then he or she will create a program of educational, range-of-motion, strengthening, and endurance activities to meet your needs.
Types of physical therapy
Physical therapy nearly always involves exercise of some kind that is specifically designed for your injury, illness, condition, or to help prevent future health problems.
Exercise is anything you do in addition to your regular daily activity that will improve your flexibility, strength, coordination, or endurance. It even includes changing how you do your regular activities to give you some health benefits. Exercise can include stretching to reduce stress on joints, core stability exercises to strengthen the muscles of your trunk (your back and abdomen) and hips, lifting weights to strengthen muscles, walking, doing water aerobics, and many other forms of activity. Your physical therapist is likely to teach you how to do an exercise program on your own at home so you can continue to work toward your fitness goals and prevent future problems.
Manual therapy (sometimes called bodywork) is a general term for treatment performed mostly with the hands. The goals of manual therapy include relaxation, decreased pain, and increased flexibility.
Manual therapy can include:
- Massage. Pressure is applied to the soft tissues of the body, such as the muscles. Massage can help relax muscles, increase circulation, and ease pain in the soft tissues.
- Mobilization. Slow, measured movements are used to twist, pull, or push bones and joints into position. This can help loosen tight tissues around a joint and help with flexibility and alignment.
- Manipulation. Pressure is applied to a joint. It can be done with the hands or a special device. The careful, controlled force used on the joint can range from gentle to strong and from slow to rapid.
Physical therapy almost always includes education and training in areas such as:
- Performing your daily tasks safely.
- Protecting your joints and avoiding reinjury.
- Using assistive devices such as crutches or wheelchairs.
- Doing home exercises designed to help with your injury or condition.
- Making your home safe for you if you have strength, balance, or vision problems.
Physical therapy may be used alone or with other treatments.
Your physical therapist will examine you and talk to you about your symptoms and your daily activity. He or she will then work with you on a treatment plan. The goals are to help your joints move better and to restore or increase your flexibility, strength, endurance, coordination, and/or balance.
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