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What is Physical Therapy? Break Down of Physical Therapy

Updated: Aug 27, 2023

What is Physical Therapy?

Physical therapy (also called Physiotherapy) is a specialty program designed to evaluate, assess, and treat individuals who may have limitations in functional mobility. Your doctor might recommend getting this treatment after an injury or surgery. Physical therapy (PT) helps individuals recover safely, and faster, and can prevent future injuries.

Physical Therapy Meaning

Merriam Webster defines Physical Therapy as:

“Therapy for the preservation, enhancement, or restoration of movement and physical function impaired or threatened by disease, injury, or disability that utilizes therapeutic exercise, physical modalities (such as massage and electrotherapy), assistive devices, and patient education and training.”

What Does a Physical Therapist Do?

Physical Therapists work in various settings from sports and fitness to healthcare and education, research centers, and government agencies. Physical therapists are professionals licensed by the state to provide physical therapy to individuals. They are trained to assess the patient's condition and create a fitness and wellness program to help encourage a healthy, active lifestyle, improve movement, and gain their independence back.

Physical Therapists are trained to use a variety of treatment styles and techniques to help the patient heal better and faster. They conduct an evaluation to create a very personalized plan tailored to the specific patient. Treatments can be hands-on at a facility or virtual. They will also teach exercises that can be done outside of PT to help with the recovery process, movement, and function.

Who Should Get Physical Therapy?

PT offers many benefits, such as pain management, mobility, flexibility, balance, and muscle strengthening. Some of the most common reasons for doing physical therapy include recovery after a sport-related injury, accident, post-surgery recovery, diminished balance, poor strength, or general debility.

Every patient is different even if they have similar goals. A physical therapist creates a unique and specific plan for each individual that best suits their needs and goals.

Where Do I Get Physical Therapy?

Physical therapy is offered in a variety of settings including:

  • At Home

  • Assisted Living

  • Cardiac Rehab Centers

  • Hospital

  • Nursing Home

  • Outpatient Clinic

  • Private Medical Offices

  • School

  • Sports Medicine Centers

Licensed physical therapists work in a range of sports and fitness settings, as well as healthcare - outpatient offices, private practices, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes, home health, hospices - schools, occupational settings, government agencies, and research centers.

When Should I Get Physical Therapy?

There is no exact science to indicate when you should or shouldn’t get physical therapy. Common events or reasons that an individual gets PT can be recovering after an injury or surgery, rehab after a stroke, or managing an illness such as diabetes, heart disease, or arthritis. If you are transitioning to or from an artificial limb, using assistive devices (walker or cane), or using a splint or brace physical therapy can help you adapt safely and faster.

Physical therapy can be a treatment option for a variety of health problems, injuries, and physical challenges for people of all ages.

If you are considering PT consult with your primary care doctor. If you have a sharp, sudden shock of pain, swelling, or restricted mobility before starting PT, you may consider holding the pause button and consulting with your doctor. They can help guide you in the right direction.

Why Should I Get a Physical Therapist?

Physical therapists' goals are to help people manage pain, improve movement, and get back to normal. Now, you're probably thinking, I have the internet, why should I spend the money when I have a free resource right in front of me.

Yes, you do, however, the internet can have contradictory information. How do you know what information is accurate? How do you know what treatment, equipment, and exercises are right for you?

A physical therapist can eliminate all of those questions for you. You know you are receiving the right treatment without making things worse.

Benefits of a Physical Therapy

  1. Pain Management

  2. Reduce Pain Medication

  3. Avoid Surgery

  4. Prevent Disability

  5. Prevent Injuries

  6. Recover from Injury or Surgery

  7. Improve Mobility & Ability

  8. Improve Functionality

  9. Improve Overall Health

  10. Improve Posture

  11. Improve Balance

  12. Improve Fitness

  13. Prevent Injuries

How Much Does Physical Therapy Cost?

The cost of physical therapy out of pocket can range from $50 - $500 per session. There are many factors that can affect the cost of physical therapy. Some factors include location - a hospital setting can be more expensive, duration - days, weeks, months, etc., time - number of sessions, etc.

Having insurance will help cover some of the costs. After meeting your deductible, the cost can range anywhere from $20 - $350.

Physical Therapy Cost with Insurance

Depending on your provider, your healthcare plan, length of session, duration, etc., you might be looking at spending anywhere from $50 - $350 or more, however, depending on your insurance carrier there may be no cost out of pocket. There are three key things to look at when considering how insurance will affect your cost.

3 Things to Look At When Considering Insurance:

  1. Check your insurance plan

  2. Check your deductible

  3. Check your copay.

The national average cost for an evaluation ranges from $50 - $400. The national average cost for daily visits (single physical therapy session) ranges from $20 - $200.

How Long Does Physical Therapy Take?

Treatment length can vary for each individual, making it hard to predict the exact amount of time a person will need to make a full recovery. Factors that can impact the healing time include the extent of the injury, location, age, natural healing time, and effort given by the individual during therapy sessions.

Average healing time for injury:

  • Muscle Injury - 2 to 4 Weeks

  • Tendon Injury - 4 to 6 Weeks

  • Bone Injury - 6 - 8 Weeks

  • Ligament Injury - 10 - 12 Weeks

  • Cartilage Injury - 12 Weeks

In some instances, PT can feel like a long journey and never-ending, but it’s important to remain patient and let your body heal in due time.

Types of Physical Therapy Treatment

The type of treatment can vary from patient to patient depending on what their goal(s) is. Therapeutic exercise is used to help with gaining range of motion, increase strength, and improve function.

Physical and manual techniques include:

  • Iontophoresis

  • Electrical stimulation (e-stim)

  • Heat Therapy

  • Cold Therapy

  • Cupping

  • Exercise

  • Ultrasound

  • Traction

  • Joint Mobilization

  • Soft Tissue Manipulation

  • Kinesiology Tape

  • Dry Needling

Types of Physical Therapy Programs

Physical therapists usually specialize in a type of physical therapy.

Types of Physical Therapy Include:

  • Acute Care

  • Respiratory and Pulmonary Rehab

  • Post-Operative Care

  • Orthopedic Rehab

  • Neurological Rehab

  • Wound Therapy

  • Acupuncture Therapy

  • Aquatic Therapy (Hydrotherapy)

  • Cardiopulmonary Therapy

  • Pediatric Therapy

  • Geriatric Therapy

  • Vestibular Therapy

  • Decongestive

  • Pelvic Floor Rehabilitation

  • Sports Therapy

How to Tell if Physical Therapy is Working?

If you feel like things are “back to normal” that is a good sign that physical therapy is working. In some cases you may get used to the feeling of “not feeling normal” and that has become the norm for you, so when you are getting back to “normal” it can feel weird. In this scenario, your physical therapist will conduct other tests to see if there has been any improvement.

Some ways your physical therapist may test your mobility and function is to do a questionnaire, measure your range of motion, strength, and flexibility using tools and machines, and conduct assessments to gauge overall movement.

Physical Therapist Near Me

With technological advancements, physical therapy can now be done virtually. Patients now have the option to choose to have a virtual physical therapy session or an in-person physical therapy session.

If virtual physical therapy is something you are interested in, visit T.R.A.C. Total Running and Athletic Conditioning offers 100% online physical therapy sessions. Have a custom plan created for you, regular check-ins via phone or video, and a physical therapist with over 25 years of experience.

If you are someone who prefers in-person Total Running and Conditioning does offer physical therapy sessions to those located in Michigan, USA. For questions, you can contact us here.


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