Physical therapy — overview of conditions treated and primary methods

Physical Therapy Overview

Physical therapy is a health profession that treats a wide variety of conditions, from musculoskeletal injuries to neurological disorders. With a combination of targeted exercises, manual therapy, patient education and other interventions, a physical therapist can help a patient restore functionality and improve overall health. 

One of the main advantages of physical therapy is that it uses the body itself to address symptoms at the source instead of masking pain. However, physical therapy is typically integrated with other methods into a comprehensive treatment plan designed to help patients improve their quality of life and manage their condition. 

If you’re investigating potential treatment options and are curious about the benefits of physical therapy, we’ve created the following guide to help you learn more. As you look this over, please feel free to reach out to us with any questions or if you’d like to learn more about how we can help. 

What qualifies someone to be a physical therapist?

To become a physical therapist, a person must attend an accredited physical therapy school and receive a degree. The curriculum for physical therapy students is built on a foundation of clinical sciences with the intention of recognizing and providing treatment for common musculoskeletal injuries and conditions. Therapists also receive the training necessary to recognize issues that are outside the scope of physical therapy treatment in order to refer patients to appropriate providers. 

Once they earn their degree, prospective therapists then need to pass a licensing exam from a state-sponsored organization to be able to practice. Physical therapy is currently a high demand, rapidly growing field. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the number of physical therapists in the United States will grow by up to 28% in the next 10 years, which is higher than average. 

What conditions can a physical therapist treat? 

Physical therapists are trained to treat and rehabilitate patients dealing with a wide array of injury-related musculoskeletal disorders as well as age-related conditions and neurological issues. Another aspect of physical therapy is helping patients recover from surgery and other intensive forms of treatment. 

Examples of specific conditions that physical therapists often assist with include: 

  • Neck pain, back pain and related symptoms, including sciatica
  • Lower body pain, including hip, knee and foot pain
  • Pelvic pain
  • Arthritis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Post-surgical rehabilitation 
  • Balance and gait disorders
  • Osteoporosis

To treat these conditions, physical therapists will meet with new patients and perform a full evaluation that includes:

  • A review of medical and treatment history, including any imagery like an MRI or X-ray
  • A discussion of symptoms and how they are affecting daily life
  • A physical examination that includes movement, posture and balance tests

From there, a therapist and patient can work together to develop an effective physical therapy treatment plan. 

What are the main methods a physical therapist uses to help patients? 

The major goal of physical therapy and rehabilitation is to relieve pain and improve functioning by strengthening supporting muscles, improving flexibility and range of motion, and relaxing tense and spastic muscles. This is accomplished with the following specific treatment methods:

  • Targeted therapeutic exercises
  • Strength and stability exercises
  • Cardiovascular exercises
  • Manual therapy 
  • Joint mobilization 
  • Dry needling
  • Electrical stimulation
  • Patient education

It is critical for the relationship between physical therapist and patient to be highly collaborative, with patients taking a proactive role in their care. In-office therapy sessions should be supplemented with at-home exercises, good nutrition, proper posture and regular exercise in order to achieve the best outcomes. 

Physical therapy expertise at Continuum Wellness

At our clinic in Apache Junction, Arizona, our team of experts is committed to improving the health and overall well-being of our patients in addition to any targeted treatments we provide. We place the utmost value in giving the people who come to us for help the tools and resources they need to get back to the level of activity they deserve. 

We do this through providing highly personalized care using only proven, evidence-based techniques and practices. To learn more about how we can help and to schedule your initial consultation, please contact us today.