Get better faster—that’s the primary reason to seek help from a physical therapist. And who doesn’t want to feel better and return to living their life sooner rather than later? We often think an injury is going to heal on its own, but many times it doesn’t. Sometimes the body needs a jumpstart to begin healing, and that’s when physical therapy and rehabilitation can play important roles in getting you back to work or play in the shortest amount of time possible.
Whether you’re experiencing post-surgical rehabilitation, a balance disorder or a sports- or work-related injury, rehabilitation and physical therapy can help restore function, improve mobility, relieve pain and prevent or limit physical disabilities.
Time is of the Essence
A frequent comment physical therapists hear from their patients is, “I wish I had come to you sooner. I waited for months thinking this would get better and was miserable with pain and not being able to perform my daily functions.”
Relieving discomfort and inconvenience though aren’t the primary reasons
that therapists want to see patients sooner rather than later. Our bodies heal well when we address injuries before they lead to additional problems. Oftentimes swelling can block the body from healing, or a muscle is tight or a joint won’t move. Therapies can address and alleviate these problems and return a body to the point where it can continue to heal.
Pain is one of the ways the body communicates that something is amiss. But while pain is a great warning sign, it can also prevent us from performing our daily activities and responsibilities as well as we’d like or even at all, whether at work, home or play.
Physical therapists have a number of options available that are clinically proven to reduce pain. Manual techniques, electrical stimulation, ultrasound and specific exercises are often used. While not all pain can be eliminated completely, it can often be significantly reduced so the patient can return to his or her
regular levels of functionality.
Work Injury Programs
Physical therapy and rehabilitation are also integral in helping employees avoid injury in the first place, or if an injury has already occurred, preventing the same injury from reoccurring.
Job simulation, sometimes even using the exact items that an employee uses, enables work rehabilitation professionals to develop a customized treatment plan. It also allows them to see how an employee works, and from that, understand how an injury occurred so that they can make recommendations for preventing future injuries and suggest an exercise program to strengthen the employee.
Exercise’s Role in Healing and Preventing Injury
Physical therapists oftentimes start patients on a home exercise program from the very first visit. Because patients are away from us more than they are with us, we want them to be able to work on their own and continue to progress during our clinical time together. The exercises are often focused on improving endurance, cardiovascular strength and specific job related tasks. Patients in a work hardening program often work with a physical therapist from two to eight hours a day as part of a very rigorous schedule to address flexibility, strength, function, cardiovascular issues, as well as endurance.
The goal is to reduce or eliminate their pain, prevent the injury from recurring, and return them—as quickly as possible—to work and living the life they want to live.
The Evidence Speaks for Itself
There have been numerous studies conducted over the years that examined results for injured patients who went through a physical therapy or rehabilitation program as part of their healing and compared them to patients who tried to heal themselves. Those studies consistently show that patients who went through a rehab program achieved a higher quality of functionality faster than patients who didn’t go through rehab. In addition to the documented benefits, insurance companies often cover the costs associated with physical therapy, so there is a strong case for encouraging and supporting the use of rehab.
Preventing Injury in the Workplace
Physical therapy and rehab professionals also play an important role in
helping employers ensure the safety of their employees through injury prevention. Whether an employee is a new hire or returning to work after an injury, a physical therapist can help employers better determine what an employee can do physically by conducting an ergonomic assessment, pre-work screening and/or job coaching. Determining an employee’s abilities and matching them to the job can ultimately reduce the likelihood of a workplace injury.
By Amy DeRamus
Centra Outpatient Rehabilitation