When you first think of physical therapy, you may think it’s only there to help you after a surgery procedure. However, there are many benefits of physical therapy that can help you be proactive about your pain.
These five benefits will give you a full understanding of what our physical therapists do at Lancaster Orthopedic Group, and how we can help you get back to feeling your best.
1. Improving Mobility & Balance
Physical therapy helps you improve both static balance and dynamic balance. Static balance is the ability to stay balanced in a still position whereas dynamic balance is being able to stay balanced while you’re moving.
When you have good balance, you don’t think about the risks of what could happen when your balance is off. Instability increases your chances of falling and potentially further injuring yourself. There are multiple tests a physical therapist may conduct in order to test your balance.
- Berg Balance Scale. A series of smaller assessments, a specialist will rate your ability to perform each one which will ultimately determine your level of balance.
- Timed Up & Go Test (TUG). A physical therapist will time you to see how long it takes for you to stand up, walk to a certain point, and then come back to the chair.
- Posturography. This test helps us indicate how well you can stay balanced while on a moving surface.
With a physical therapist, you may start with simple exercises such as
- Walking while alternating knee ups.
- Standing on one foot for an extended period of time.
- Walking heel to toe in a line.
As you improve your balance you can start to challenge yourself with yoga or tai chi routines or by using a bosu ball. A bosu ball has one flat side and one rounded like an inflatable ball. This type of physical therapy benefits seniors and keeps them active in their daily life.
Additionally, physical therapy for vertigo uses balancing tests and exercises to potentially lessen the symptoms. Known as vestibular rehabilitation therapy, these exercises should only be used with proper professional treatment.
2. Alternative to Surgery
One of the more apparent benefits of physical therapy is being able to use it as an alternative method to surgery. When applicable, physical therapy is also a safer option and reduces your risk of further complications.
Although in some cases, surgery is a necessary step of your treatment plan, strains and sprains can avoid surgery with physical therapy. Lancaster Orthopedic Group will use other methods, before immediately resorting to surgery, to manage and reduce your pain. When combined with rest, icing, anti-inflammatory medicine, and possibly an injection, physical therapy is a viable and beneficial option.
Rotator Cuff Tear
In most cases, rotator cuff tears are a degenerative injury or an injury that happens over time. At Lancaster Orthopedic Group, we’ll evaluate your shoulder by testing its range of motion and conducting an imaging test to confirm a tear. Based on this consultation, we can determine if physical therapy is an appropriate path.
A rotator cuff tear is a prime example of an injury that can often be treated with physical therapy. Surgery is only used if the pain is not resolved through a more conservative type of treatment. Common exercises our physical therapists use include the following:
- Shoulder flexion with a cane
- Scapular squeezes
- Banded shoulder rows
- Banded shoulder extension
A torn meniscus is a common sports injury but can also occur through other types of exercising such as squatting or walking. When you tear your meniscus, you’ll feel your knee lock up or give out and have a limited range of motion.
Just like most injuries, our specialists will determine the severity of your injury and recommend an effective treatment plan. It’s likely that small tears can be treated with physical therapy. Below is a list of exercises our specialists will use to help reduce and manage your pain.
- Quad setting
- Straight leg raises
- Side-lying leg lifts
- Front step-ups
3. Faster Recovery Times
For certain sprains and strains, like a sprained ankle, incorporating physical therapy into your treatment plan can quicken your recovery time. Some patients may be hesitant to introduce physical therapy to an area of pain, but ultimately these movements will help strengthen the affected area.
Your physical therapist has a significant understanding of how to rebuild and strengthen muscles which ultimately increases mobility and helps your injury heal quicker. Additionally, physical therapy can help ensure an injury is fully healed and isn’t at risk of being re-injured.
When someone experiences an injury, the chance of hurting the same muscle again is increased unless you allow the injury to heal and rest properly. A physical therapist helps improve poor movement patterns that can quickly lead to a re-injured muscle.
Even if surgery is a necessary step, there are plenty of benefits of physical therapy. By staying active during your recovery time, you better restore mobility and joint functionality. When you’re less active, your muscles become stiff and lose overall strength.
4. Help with Bad Posture
When you’re faced with back pain, it can be frustrating to not have a clear understanding of where it’s coming from or how you can fix it. This pain is usually caused by a sudden trauma or stress over time. Because of this, physical therapy for posture is a great way to relieve back pain.
Degeneration of the lumbar disc is more common in adults over 50 and is a natural process of aging and stress on your body. The lumbar spine helps you perform a lot of everyday tasks such as walking and sitting, so it will become quite noticeable when something isn’t right.
Ultimately, physical therapy strengthens your muscles. Generally, back pain, bad posture, and misalignment come from weaker muscle patterns and movements. Some physical therapy lower back exercises that can help include
- Cat and Cow Pose. On all fours, arch your back upwards until you feel a nice stretch, and then arch inwards. Do this as many times as it feels comfortable.
- Cobra Stretch. While on a mat, push your upper body up so your back is stretched upwards. Make sure you don’t overextend and only do the exercise until you’re comfortable.
- Bridges. Lie down on your back and lift your hips towards the sky and rest your arms by your side. As you start to lift and lower your hips, you should notice a stretch in your lower back.
- Side Twists. While laying on your back, extend your arms out and bring your knees up towards your chest. Slowly shift side to side until you feel the stretch in your lower back and on your sides.
- Child’s Pose. Kneel on your mat, sit back on your heels, and lean forward as far as possible. You can either relax your arms by your side or stretch them out above your head for a more intense stretch.
5. Reduce Pain of Arthritis
As the body ages, the natural wear and tear of life can cause discomfort and arthritis in your joints. Physical therapy for arthritis is a great way to stay active and prolong the pain that comes as you get older.
One of the most common types of arthritis is osteoarthritis, affecting approximately two-thirds of adults over the age of 60. Symptoms of wrist arthritis include
- Inflammation of the joint
- Limited range of motion
- Clicking or grinding in the joint
When It’s Time for Physical Therapy
Generally, an orthopedic specialist will recommend physical therapy after surgery or sometimes in a replacement of a surgery. However, there are other scenarios, like the ones listed below, that may incorporate physical therapy into your treatment plan.
- When myalgia, or pain in your muscles, bones, and ligaments, is negatively affecting your daily life.
- If you’ve noticed that the pain has been lingering for days after resting.
- Prescribed medications aren’t resolving your pain.
- You’re experiencing dull, reoccurring pain.
- You have chronic pain, which lasts longer than 3 months.
At Lancaster Orthopedic, our physical therapists will offer you a personalized set of hand-strengthening exercises. We can help you determine your ultimate goal of treatment, teach you how to use different machines, and provide at-home exercises for you to practice.
Our goal with physical therapy is to bring you back to optimal functioning so you can complete your daily tasks. We will work closely with your physician and orthopedic specialist to provide a comprehensive approach to your treatment.
Meet our physical therapists and call our office at 717.560.4200 to schedule your consultation.