Physical therapy can do wonders for someone recovering from an injury, surgery, or a debilitating medical condition. It’s also widely prescribed to people as they age in order to deal with pain and stiffness from arthritis and other common ailments. But if you’ve never been to physical therapy before, you might not know what to expect. What is physical therapy like and what will happen when you walk through that door?
1. A very modern office. Physical therapy (PT) isn’t just stretching and moving. Your therapist will want to take measurements and track objective data as well as get your personal experience of how well you are progressing. PT is firmly science-based and this allows therapists to track what’s working and what’s not, tailoring your sessions for maximum effect. Physical therapists use a wide variety of equipment, computers, and PT software to allow them to do this.
2. Being challenged. Physical therapy exists to help you heal, but it won’t be easy. Almost by definition, physical therapy means challenging the body to move in ways it currently can’t – often pushing the edges of your range of motion, strength, or mobility. This will be done in the most positive and holistic way possible, but it will definitely be hard work. For many patients, PT is harder than a session at the gym is for an uninjured person. Your physical therapist will work with you to make sure the pace is appropriate, and not to overdo anything. The more mentally prepared you are to work hard, and the more you’re willing to communicate what you’re feeling as you learn new exercises, the more this will pay off.
3. Taking your practice home. Some PT patients will work exclusively at their sessions, but for most, the therapist will want to send you home with exercises, stretches, or activities you’ll do on your own between sessions. If you’re given such activities it’s vital to keep up on your practice at the rate that your physical therapist recommends. If you encounter an unforeseen difficulty or have a safety concern, you should stop your home practice and call your therapist for clarification before you continue. Otherwise, it’s important to push on – the results you get out of PT are very much tied to how much you put into it.