When someone has a painful or disabling condition, physical therapy (PT) often reduces symptoms and helps them get back to their normal activities. It also can help prevent or treat a wide range of diseases, conditions, and injuries.
After evaluating your condition, your PT will design a care plan to guide treatment, including hands-on treatments and at-home exercises. They may use heat or cold treatments, or massage your muscles to ease pain and stiffness. The therapist will probably give you a list of exercises to do at home, along with how many times and in what order to perform them. It’s important to follow the plan exactly. If an exercise feels uncomfortable or strange, ask for another explanation or stop it if you feel any pain.
For those with a mobility problem, PT can be especially valuable. It can help improve your ability to walk, drive, or work, and teach you ways to compensate for an injury. For example, if you have trouble with your balance, a therapist can show you how to shift your weight to one side when you’re walking or standing up.
A growing area of practice involves women’s health, and a physical therapist might focus on pelvic or vaginal pain, prenatal and postpartum issues, and musculoskeletal problems associated with menopause or osteoporosis. People who have certain types of cancer or lymphedema (accumulation of fluids in soft tissues) also can benefit from PT. Many PT programs offer courses on how to manage these problems.