Physical therapy — the basics

Physical therapy is a form of treatment that involves using the body to overcome injuries and other conditions. The main goals of physical therapy are relieving pain and restoring function. A physical therapist can accomplish this with a combination of exercises and techniques that strengthen the body, promote mobility and can help contribute to a healthier lifestyle. 

The entire team at Back in Motion believes that patient education is a fundamental part of the   healing journey. This is why we have created this guide to physical therapy, including an overview of physical therapists, the conditions they treat and the ways they help people get back to functioning. As you read this information, feel free to contact our caring and dedicated team today. 

Physical therapists — their role and training 

Physical therapists receive highly specialized training and education in the movement of the human body and the basic function of the musculoskeletal system. This gives therapists a functional understanding of how the body works together to accomplish basic movements. To become a physical therapist, prospective candidates must earn a doctoral degree from an accredited physical therapy school and pass a licensing exam administered by the state.  

Physical therapists learn to work with patients one-on-one to identify underlying causes of pain and movement issues that can be associated with symptoms. With this information they can work with patients to create a personalized treatment plan. Treatment itself consists of education, instruction and assistance in performing the specific techniques that can help patients find relief and a return to functioning. 

Conditions treated with physical therapy 

As a discipline, physical therapy was primarily developed to help musculoskeletal injuries and progressive conditions that impair movement and to assist with rehabilitation after surgery. Here are some of the most common conditions that physical therapists treat: 

  • Back and neck pain
  • Shoulder and elbow pain
  • Hip and knee pain
  • Foot and ankle pain 
  • Wrist and hand pain
  • Sports injuries
  • Age-related conditions like arthritis 
  • Pre- and post-surgical rehabilitation
  • Balance, dizziness and vertigo 

No matter what the underlying cause, or whether the condition is fully curable or reversible, physical therapists will work with each patient to find the right combination of methods that best work to achieve specific goals like increased stability and range of motion. 

How physical therapists provide treatment

An easy and common way to categorize physical therapy treatments is by active and passive therapies. Passive techniques are applied to the patient by the clinician. Examples include assisting with exercises and stretches or performing manual therapy. Active therapies are performed by patients themselves, such as carrying out a stability exercise. 

Here are just a few examples of physical therapy techniques you may expect to encounter when meeting with a therapist:

  • Manual therapy — A physical therapist uses hands-on techniques to relax tense muscles, promote healthy blood flow, and mobilize joints and soft tissue.  
  • Therapeutic exercise — A therapist provides instruction on targeted exercises that can strengthen important supporting muscles, improve flexibility and stabilize an injury-prone area. 
  • Dry needling — This form of treatment involves inserting thin needles into specific areas of the body, called trigger points, with the goal of relieving pain. 

Other areas of physical therapy include vestibular rehabilitation as well as ergonomics and workplace health programs. Every person and situation is unique, which is why physical therapists need to work to develop personalized treatment plans that address the unique needs of each situation. 

Top-tier physical therapy at Back in Motion

The highly credentialed therapists at Back in Motion are committed to delivering exceptional care to people dealing with pain and limited mobility by creating realistic plans to help you get back to the quality of life you deserve. We will perform a full evaluation that includes a review of your medical and treatment history, a thorough discussion of your symptoms and a physical examination with movement tests. 

With our locations in Gorham, Portland, South Portland, Brewer and Newport, Maine, we’re committed to helping people get back to a healthy and active lifestyle. To schedule your initial appointment, contact one of our front desk coordinators today.