P
eople are referred to physical therapy, or PT, as the field is commonly called, for numerous diagnoses. Orthopedists, sports medicine doctors, neurologists, rheumatologists, endocrinologists, podiatrists, primary care MDs, physiatrists, and gerontologists are just some of the specialists who send patients to PT. Diagnoses and conditions range from low back and neck pain, shoulder/knee pain, tennis elbow, repetitive strain injuries, and ACL reconstruction to arthritis, ankle sprains, running injuries, arthroscopy recovery, patella-femoral pain, rotator cuff injuries, balance issues, gait disorders, and neurological problems.

 

In the orthopedics and sports medicine area of our practice, we see patients surgical and non-surgical. Your physical therapist will begin your treatment with a comprehensive history and PT evaluation. They will review the information gathered and put together a treatment plan. Patients are very often given home exercises to enhance and speed their recovery.

 

Patients often ask about the difference is between a physical therapist and a massage therapist or a chiropractor. The difference is great. PTs do much, much more than just massage and manipulation. They have a greater scope of practice than many other health practitioners.

 

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Evaluation

 

The orthopedics physical evaluation consists of many different clinical evaluative tools, but mainly your therapist will look at posture, gait, balance, range of motion, and strength, and might also perform special tests to assess specific muscle group(s) as well as palpation.

 

PTs are experts at movement evaluation, biomechanics, and alignment. They spend a good portion of the initial consultation looking at how someone moves, both statically and dynamically. The information gathered can give them many clues as to why the patient is having pain and dysfunction. Therapists then analyze these clues and are often able to zero in on the problem area. For more information on evaluation, see “Your First Visit” in the Patient Center.

 

Treatment

 

Education is one of the most important parts of physical therapy. It allows patients to fully understand what is going on and why they have pain, as well as make the changes in their posture, ergonomics, and daily movement patterns so that the problem does not get exacerbated and so they avoid pain and reinjury.

 

PTs are experts in palpation and manual skills. They are often able to assess swelling, loss of muscle length and flexibility, poor muscle tone, and many other soft tissue problems by using their hands. PTs will incorporate numerous manual therapies (soft tissue mobilization, joint mobilization, myofascial release, massage, and other release techniques). A ‘ “hands-on” skills can loosen a tight muscle, increase circulation, and improve joint mobility.

 

Providing home exercise and stretching programs is an integral part of the treatment program. Patients are either not exercising at all or are exercising incorrectly and need guidance. A strengthening program incorporating training for the entire kinetic chain is key. Patients are given a comprehensive and balanced home exercise program that is designed to help prevent injury, re-injury, and pain. A PT will often prescribe a home program after the first visit.

 

Other techniques PTs might employ are taping (e.g., Kinesio Tape, McConnell Tape), running and sport evaluation using video analysis software, manual work on the affected body part using special treatments, such as ultrasound, electrical stimulation, and laser therapy, as well as use of one of our specialty pieces of equipment, the AlterG Treadmill, aka the anti-gravity treadmill.

The primary goal of PTs is to treat their patients using non-invasive techniques that help them heal and recover, and get them back to full function in their daily life and sport activities.

 

PTs use many “tools” to treat their patients. For more information on treatment, see “Your First Visit” in the Patient Center.