Throughout my years as a Physical Therapist, I have noticed that there are many opinions and misconceptions about the field as a whole. Now, if I were to write about each point, this might look more like a novel than a blog post, instead, I am going to just address three important issues.
Physical Therapists are clinicians with advanced degrees. Now, I do not want to address this point just to make ourselves look better. It is important for people to know this distinction. There are many times that I have heard people say they are a physical therapist and the response is, “Oh that’s like a masseuse”, or “Oh like a PE teacher”. No, not like that. To become a physical therapist today, you need to first obtain a four-year bachelor’s degree, followed by a three-year doctoral degree. Yes, that is right; we are Doctors of Physical Therapy. Now that is important, because that means that we have advanced knowledge in things like biomechanics (how the body moves), anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, neurology, as well as the clinical hands-on manual skills to make you feel great. This advanced degree also means that you do not necessarily need to see another doctor, or have multiple tests done before you see a physical therapist. We are trained (for many years) to be able to independently evaluate and treat patients.
Physical Therapy is not only for when you are injured. Many people believe that you only go to physical therapy if you are hurt or if you had surgery. Yes, that is a large part of the profession, but physical therapists also strongly believe in health, wellness and preventative medicine. Some examples of other things that people use physical therapists for are improved athletic performance (jump higher, run faster, coordination, power, throwing mechanics), improved posture, decreasing the risk of falling, weight loss programs, improved flexibility. One or all of these things may be important to you, and a physical therapist can help you with them.
Physical Therapists are not all the same. I have worked, observed, volunteered in many clinics, and I have never seen two physical therapists that practice in the same way. There is a physical therapy office and a physical therapist out there for everyone. Some use manual therapy more. Some use exercises more. Some use yoga. Some use Pilates. Some come to the house. Some work in hospitals. Some use ancient eastern medicine techniques (acupuncture and cupping). It is important that you find the type of therapist that works the best for you, that way; you will be stay dedicated to improving your health.