What is Physical Therapy?
Physical therapy is a method of treatment that is used when an individual has health problems that make it difficult for them to get around and take care of the everyday tasks of life.
PT helps to loosen you up so that it’s not such a chore to move around and it could help relieve some of the pain. Additionally, it helps to improve, or even restore, full physical functioning and fitness level.
Physical therapy serves to make the tasks and activities of daily life so much easier. For example, it can help with getting in and out of bed, walking, or climbing stairs. Also, physical therapy can be used to facilitate recovery after some surgeries.
Your physician could also recommend physical therapy for injuries or long-term health conditions such as COPD or arthritis.
Physical therapy can be used as a standalone treatment or in conjunction with other forms of treatment.
Physical Therapist Functions
Before beginning treatment, your physical therapist will do an examination and discuss your symptoms and daily activity with you. Then, he/she will work out a plan for treatment with you.
The goals of physical therapy are to help your joints function better and to increase/restore balance, coordination, endurance, flexibility and strength.
To begin with, your physical therapist will work to reduce any swelling or pain you’re experiencing. He/she will use a combination of education, manual therapy, and treatment methods such as heat/cold packs, ultrasound, water therapy, and even electrical stimulation, if appropriate.
In most cases, physical therapy also includes exercise. This can include core exercises, walking, stretching, and even weight lifting.
Your physical therapist will most likely teach you some exercises that you can do on your own at home as well.
You should be aware that treatment could cause some mild swelling and/or soreness. Though this is normal, if it bothers you, consider talking to your physical therapist about it.
Things to Look for in a Physical Therapist
Of course, when you’re looking for a physical therapist, you’re going to want one that has some experience with your personal health problems.
Some physical therapists are also certified in other areas such as: neurology, orthopedics, and sports medicine. Additionally, physical therapists can have specialties in specific types of care, such as:
- Back/neck pain
- Wound care
- Cardiac rehab
- Issues related to cancer
- Treatment of pediatrics/geriatrics
There are a few things that you must consider when looking for a physical therapist to treat your specific issues.
- Ask your physician if he/she can recommend one that specializes in what you need.
- Find out if you’ll need a referral- some states or insurances require referrals.
- Find out if your insurance covers physical therapy or if you’ll be paying out of pocket.
Using PT to Recover from Whiplash
Whiplash is a very common result of being involved in an automobile accident, even if you weren’t going very fast before the crash.
Whiplash is a result of the sudden and intense jerking of the head from the front to the back, and has no connection with the speed you were travelling. You could have been sitting still and someone crashed into you.
Individuals who have experienced whiplash have decreased mobility and general stiffening of their neck.
Physical therapy can be used to promote healing and recovery and is best used only after the acute stages of whiplash have passed. Following are some tips to use physical therapy after whiplash.
Recognizing the Signs of Whiplash
Before you can be treated for whiplash, you must know the symptoms of whiplash. After whiplash has occurred, you will need to be ready to get lots of headaches. Even small changes in the vertebrae can cause headaches.
You must also understand that whiplash could result in a blocked or pinched nerve due to pressure from a vertebrae.
A pinched nerve can be extremely painful and physical therapy or visits to a chiropractor could be a great way to relieve nerve pain.
Finally, you should trust your instincts- after all, you know yourself better than anyone else. If you’ve been in an accident and you feel pain in your neck, pay attention to other warning signs and schedule an appointment with your physician to get an evaluation done.
There are some physical therapy exercises you can do on your own to promote healing of whiplash. You can use some stretching exercises to relieve pain in your upper neck. Start by sitting up in a chair, and place your fingertips on your chin.
Moving your head in a downward motion- chin towards chest- notice the stretching at the base of your skull. Continue in this downward motion until you feel some resistance.
Hold the position for 5-10 seconds and then return to your upright position. Continue doing this for about 5 repetitions.
Other Options to Treat Whiplash
You can consider some other options to use instead of or in conjunction with physical therapy to treat your whiplash. First of all, discuss with your physician the possibility of using a cervical collar.
Though it’s definitely not the most fashion-forward accessory, it can help to keep your neck and spinal cord in the correct position to help facilitate the healing process.
Ask about using static magnetic therapy to help lower pain that comes with whiplash. Your physician should be able to advise you on this form of therapy. If not, speak with your physical therapist or other health professional about this option.
Your physical therapist and physician will most likely recommend that you also use heat/cold packs to help promote healing. The heat/cold packs will help to decrease the swelling as well as relieve the pain and decrease stiffness.