Three physical therapists agreed to help us debunk some common misconceptions of physical therapy and explain why we “everyday athletes” should take a more positive attitude toward the practice.
Physical therapy is a means to end, said Dr. Mandi Fetters of Active Physical Therapy. “I tell my patients I don’t want to see them forever,” she said.
Fetters, along with Kristian Graham from OrthoNeuro and Geoff Omiatek, the director of therapy services for Orthopedic ONE, all agreed: the purpose of physical therapy is to alleviate pain and keep it away for good.
“We, as a profession, want to see people get better,” Graham said.
Our three physical therapists also agreed that the biggest misconception of physical therapy is that it requires pain and strenuous exercise.
“Some people get nervous,” Graham said. “They think they will develop a lot of pain if they go to therapy, but our goal is to get people back to a life they can enjoy and do what they love.”
It is the job of the physical therapist to find a treatment route that fits the patient, Fetters said. “The misconception is that we’re drill sergeants,” she said. “If you don’t like a particular way to do an exercise, then I’ll find a way to make it work for you.”
“Physical therapists are usually willing to adjust the plan for the patient,” Graham said. “Whether it is a decrease in frequency or varying the exercises.”
In terms of when to make an appointment, the general rule of thumb is that if the pain is affecting your ability to function or your ability to sleep you should seek help, Graham said. There are also various types of physical therapy, from geriatrics to women’s health. Finding the right provider for your body is the most important part, Omiatek said.
The experts stressed the importance of sticking with physical therapy for the duration of the treatment plan. Each physical therapist will develop a plan of care that should be followed from beginning to end, or athletes run the risk of setting themselves up for future injury, Graham said.
And while it makes Fetters happier not to see her patients again, it is important to remember you can always come back in the case of a flare-up, she said.
“People can start thinking of a physical therapist as a person they can follow up with,” Fetters said,
“someone you can develop a relationship with.”
So remember how there are a lot of different forms of physical therapy? Well there are, and the need for physical therapy doesn’t end when you stop playing on a sports team.
“Everyone is an athlete,” Omiatek said. “My grandma, who is 90, does things that are athletic everyday. I consider her an active 90-year-old, and she needs to be as aware as an 18-year-old.”
The best way to keep yourself from spending an evening with one of these three? Stretch and maintain
a balanced activity level.
“Stretching can prevent a lot of complications,” Graham said. “Stretching, resistance training and even cardiovascular exercise…it doesn’t have to be intense workouts or take up a lot of time, but doing it on a regular basis is what’s most important.”
Dr. Fetters suggests MoveForewardPT.org for more information and help finding a PT.