Should you only see a professional if the pain becomes unbearable? Does it have to be a physical therapist or PT, or can you go to a chiropractor instead?
While both are licensed professionals, their approaches are slightly different. Chiropractors perform adjustments to correct subluxations, while PTs develop an individualized treatment plan, including a home exercise program after a thorough evaluation.
Keep in mind that physical therapy aims to empower patients to care for themselves and, hopefully, prevent pain from reoccurring by self-management. That being said, let’s talk about when you should see a PT and what to remember when doing physical therapy at home.
1. You’re Experiencing Sharp Pain
When people ask, “Who needs physical therapy?” some folks think it’s only for athletes and those who have suffered severe injuries.
If you’re experiencing sharp pain, though, and it doesn’t get better with rest and icing, you might have a pulled muscle or a stress fracture. Both conditions can benefit from physical therapy because these can get worse without intervention. The sooner you see a PT, the faster he or she can get you started on a treatment program, which could include manual therapy, exercise, and education.
2. You Have Lingering Pain
If you have pain that doesn’t go away after three days, there’s no need to ask, “Is physical therapy necessary?” especially if you’ve done the RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) method.
See a doctor or make an appointment with a PT right away.
3. Pain Meds Aren’t Helping
You’ve seen a doctor, and your pain symptoms aren’t improving even with prescribed medications.
Your doctor could change your meds, or you can ask, “Do I need physical therapy?” If your doctor thinks you will benefit from seeing a PT, he or she can make a referral to a specialist. You can also check out these services for more information.
4. You Suffer From RSI
Do you suspect you have carpal tunnel or tennis elbow?
These are some examples of RSI or repetitive strain injury. As the name implies, these are injuries caused by repetitive movements. For patients whose RSI is mild, a PT can help by teaching simple exercises and showing how to perform tasks without straining muscles, nerves, and tendons.
5. You Frequently Get Injured
If it seems like you’re falling more often or always pulling muscles, you need to see a PT.
You may have problems with balance and overall stability. The good news is these can improve with a few physical therapy sessions.
Important: Can You DIY Physical Therapy?
While there is a home exercise component to physical therapy, you still need to consult a specialist. It’s easy to misdiagnose your condition if you don’t see a PT. You can also make your injury worse by trying aggressive stretching, treatments, and poses.
Even if, let’s say, you know what’s causing your pain, you still need guidance on how to perform home exercises. Don’t rely on online videos, as these cannot help if you experience further discomfort or pain from overdoing PT techniques.
Do You Need to See a PT?
Now that you know some signs that can tell you if you need physical therapy, are you planning to make an appointment to see a PT soon?
If yes, don’t forget to check out our other posts. They can shed more light on what to expect when seeing a pain specialist.
For more health tips and advice, check out our other articles.