Many people think of physical therapy as nothing more than stretches, but this isn't further from the truth. Physical therapy is an umbrella term that includes many treatments and therapies.
Don't let the myths and misconceptions about physical therapy keep you from getting the therapy you need.
Read on as our team of providers at International Spine, Pain & Performance Center in Washington, D.C., and Arlington, Virginia, sheds light on the truth about physical therapy.
Myth #1: physical therapy is just for athletes
Fact: While it’s true that athletes do benefit from physical therapy, you don’t have to be an athlete to benefit from physical therapy. Whether you're recovering from surgery, managing chronic pain, rehabilitating after an accident, or seeking relief from musculoskeletal issues like sciatica, physical therapy gives you the interventions you need to feel and function better.
Myth #2: physical therapy requires difficult exercises
Fact: Physical therapy doesn't deliver overnight changes. Instead, the goal is to facilitate gradual progress and improve function without discomfort.
Physical therapy exercises often start with passive therapies and move toward more active ones. While you may experience discomfort due to your injury or condition, let your International Spine, Pain, & Performance Center physical therapist know if something is painful. Many modifications are available to help you exercise with minimal discomfort.
Remember: the overall goal of physical therapy is to help alleviate your pain, not cause more pain.
Myth #3: physical therapy is just exercise
Fact: Exercise is just one component of physical therapy. Physical therapists use various modalities, manual techniques, education, and specialized equipment to address musculoskeletal issues. For example, our International Spine, Pain & Performance Center team also uses massage and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) in addition to prescribed stretches and exercises.
Myth #4: physical therapy can’t help you unless you have surgery first
Fact: Physical therapy is invaluable for post-surgical rehabilitation, but you don't need surgery to benefit from physical therapy. Physical therapy can help manage many conditions, including chronic pain, arthritis, neurological disorders, rotator cuff injuries, carpal tunnel syndrome, scoliosis, herniated discs, sciatica, and more.
In some cases, physical therapy can even help you avoid surgery for musculoskeletal conditions. According to Harvard Health Publishing, physical therapy can help postpone (or avoid) the need for knee replacement by stretching the muscles that support your knee. When your muscles absorb more of the impact of each step, that's less strain on your knees.
Myth #5: physical therapy is a one-time fix
Fact: Physical therapy is often a progressive process requiring multiple sessions. The duration of treatment depends on the nature and severity of the condition. Physical therapists work with you to establish realistic goals and provide guidance on exercises and strategies that can be continued independently for long-term benefits.
That being said, the results of physical therapy rely on your adherence to your at-home prescribed exercises and stretches. If you need help remembering to do your exercises and stretches daily, set a reminder on your phone.
What can physical therapy do for you?
Physical therapy can help:
- Alleviate musculoskeletal pain
- Improve your range of motion in your knee, hip, shoulder, wrist, etc.
- Promote smooth recovery after surgery
- Treat sports injuries and promote a safe return to your sport
- Regain your independence
Because physical therapy (and all of its modalities) can do so much, it's often included in many treatment plans—physical complements many other treatments, including dietary changes, injections, and medication.
To learn more about physical therapy and its benefits, call the location of your choice today. You can also schedule your appointment online.