In the orthopedics and sports medicine, the area of my practice, we see many patients both surgical and non-surgical. The physical therapist will initially do a comprehensive history and physical therapy evaluation. They will review the information gathered and put together a treatment plan. Patients are often given home exercises to enhance and speed their recovery.
Patients often ask what the difference is between a physical therapist and a massage therapist or a chiropractor. The difference is great. PT’s do much, much more than just massage and manipulation. PT’s have a greater scope of practice than many other health practitioners.
The physical evaluation in orthopedics consists of many different clinical evaluative tools but mainly we will look at posture, gait, balance, range of motion, strength, special tests to assess specific muscle group(s) and palpation.
PT’s are experts at movement evaluation, bio-mechanics and alignment. We spend a good portion of the initial consultation looking at how someone moves both statically and dynamically. The information gathered can give us many clues as to why the patient is having pain and dysfunction. We analyze these clues and are often able to zero in on the problem area. For more information on evaluation, see” First Visit” in the Patient Center
Education is one of the most important treatments physical therapists do with their patients. Education allows our patients to fully understand what is going on and why they have pain. This knowledge allows them make the changes in their posture, ergonomics and daily movement patterns so that the problem does not get exacerbated and you avoid re-injury and pain.
Physical Therapists are experts in palpation and manual skills. PT’s are often able to assess swelling, loss of muscle length and flexibility, poor muscle tone and many other soft tissue problems by using our hands. Physical therapists will incorporate numerous manual therapies – soft tissue mobilization, joint mobilization, myofascial, massage and release techniques. The PT’s “hands-on” skills can loosen a tight muscle, increase circulation and improve mobility of a joint.
Providing exercise and stretching programs are 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 exercise program, helping to prevent injury and pain. Usually on the first visit, the PT will give a home program.
Other techniques we employ are taping (i.e.: Kinesiotape, McConnell tape) running and sport evaluation using video analysis software, special equipment such as an ultrasound, electrical stimulation and laser unit, and one of our newer pieces of equipment, the AlterG treadmill or anti-gravity treadmill.
Physical therapists use many “tools” to treat the patients. For more information on treatment see “First Visit’ in the Patient Center