7 ways physical therapy can improve your quality of life

By: Dylan Sheedy, DPT, Physical Therapist , Pardee UNC Health Care

Almost anyone can benefit from physical therapy. Perhaps you’re recovering from a stroke, heart attack or joint replacement surgery. Or maybe you have lingering COVID-19 symptoms or chronic joint pain.  

Physical therapy uses the following methods to help people increase their physical function and decrease pain and discomfort:

  • Exercises
  • Stretches
  • Massage
  • Manual therapy
  • Heat and ice therapy
  • Electrical stimulation

Physical therapists today must earn a doctor of physical therapy degree, which requires an extra three years of school and clinical training after they earn their bachelor’s degree.

How physical therapy can improve your quality of life

Physical therapy can offer many health benefits and help you live with more energy and less pain. Physical therapy can help you:

  1. Avoid surgery: While surgery is sometimes the best approach to treating an illness or injury, physical therapy can help your body heal on its own.
  2. Recover from surgery: If you’ve had surgery, physical therapy can help you regain physical function and reduce pain after the procedure.
  3. Manage chronic pain: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends physical therapy as a pain management alternative to opioids.
  4. Become more active: Exercise is crucial for a healthy life. If you struggle with pain, weakness or trouble moving, physical therapy can help increase your physical abilities so that you can be more active.
  5. Improve your balance: It’s natural for balance to decline as we age. Physical therapy can help strengthen the muscles that support good balance.
  6. Increase your flexibility: Flexibility is vital for reducing pain and risk of injury. Your physical therapist may recommend stretches, heat therapy, massage or even breathing techniques to improve your range of motion.
  7. Reduce your risk of injuries: Physical therapy focuses on improving your balance, strength and range of motion, lowering your risk of falls.

What conditions do physical therapists treat?

Physical therapists treat the following conditions:

  • Arthritis
  • Back pain
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Foot pain
  • Guillain-Barre syndrome
  • Joint pain
  • Long COVID
  • Osteoporosis
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Pelvic floor disorders
  • Post-operative pain and reduced function
  • Scoliosis
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Sports injuries
  • Vertigo and balance disorders

Physical therapists also provide cardiac and stroke rehabilitation to people recovering from a heart attack or stroke.

Additionally, physical therapists offer preventive care, working with patients on strength, flexibility, balance and coordination to reduce the risk of injury, pain and illness.

What happens during physical therapy appointments

At your first physical therapy session, your physical therapist will do an evaluation to check your strength, range of motion, flexibility, posture and movement patterns. They’ll also ask about your daily activities, physical concerns, work environment and goals for physical therapy.

Once the evaluation is complete, your therapist will develop a proposed treatment plan. This plan may include special exercises and stretches, massage therapy, manual therapy, heat or ice therapy, or electrical stimulation. You may see your physical therapist once or more each week for a few weeks or months. Or you may see them less often and complete exercises on your own at home. Your treatment plan will depend on your individual needs and concerns.

How to see a physical therapist

In North Carolina, you can make an appointment directly with a physical therapist without a referral. However, your insurance company may require a referral, so check your policy. You can also ask your primary care provider, specialist or surgeon if physical therapy is right for you.

Dylan Sheedy is a licensed physical therapist with Pardee Rehabilitation & Wellness.



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