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5 Things You Thought You Knew About Physical Therapy

Publish Date: Tue, August 02, 2016 - 9:15:00


MYTH: Physical therapy is painful

FACT: Physical therapists work within a patient’s pain threshold.  Throughout treatment and healing, physical therapists work within a patient’s pain threshold to restore movement and function and maximize healing. Physical therapists also help patients manage their pain in order to help prevent chronic or long-term pain.


MYTH: Physical therapy is synonymous with “rehabilitation”

FACT: Physical therapy is a diverse health care practice that effectively prevents injury and pain, and promotes mobility, health, and wellness.  There is a misconception that physical therapists just stretch or strengthen weak muscles after an injury or surgery. In fact, “physical therapy” includes skilled evaluation and diagnosis by a licensed physical therapist, who can often identify problems before they arise and help prevent long-term effects. As experts in restoring and improving motion, physical therapists can help people stay mobile and fit while avoiding injury as they age.


MYTH: Any health care professional or fitness expert can perform physical therapy.

FACT: Physical therapy should only be performed by a licensed physical therapist.  Physical therapy can take on many forms including manual therapy, aquatic therapy, spinal manipulation 1-3, prehabilitative exercise, or rehabilitative restoration of function.  Many physical therapists choose to pursue additional board-certified specialization in specific areas of physical therapist practice such as orthopedics, neurology and women’s health.


MYTH: A physician’s referral is required to see a physical therapist

FACT: You can go directly to a physical therapist without a referral. Currently, Iowa and Illinois allow patients to be evaluated by a physical therapist without a physician’s prior referral. In addition, the State of Iowa allows for treatment or intervention without a physician’s referral or prescription.  In Illinois if physical therapy is appropriate for your condition, your Rock Valley Physical Therapist can assist you with getting the correct paperwork for a physician's referral after your evaluation. 


MYTH: Physical therapy is something I can do on my own

FACT: Physical therapy is designed by a licensed physical therapist with specialized education and expertise.  While active patient participation is often key to the success of a physical therapist treatment plan, getting “physical therapy” really means benefitting from the expert care of a licensed physical therapist.  Physical therapists use their education and clinical expertise to perform detailed evaluations and determine a diagnosis before creating individualized plans of care.


Do you have other questions about physical therapy or are you debating if it is right for you? Contact us today for more information. We would love to help!


*Note: This article was originally published in 2014.  Some information has been updated with information for 2017. 

(Acknowledgements: Joseph Brence, PT, DPT, FAAOMPT, COMT, DAC)

1. FlynnT, Fritz J, Whitman J, et al. A clinical prediction rule for classifying patients with low back pain who demonstrate short-term improvement with spinal manipulation. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2002;27(24):2835–2843.

2. Cook CE, Showalter C, Kabbaz V, O’Halloran B. Can a within/between-session change in pain during reassessment predict outcome using a manual therapy intervention in patients with mechanical low back pain? ManTher. 2012;17(4):325–329.

3. Kuczynski JJ, Schwieterman B, Columber K, Knupp D, Shaub L, Cook CE. Effectiveness of physical therapist administered spinal manipulation for the treatment of low back pain: a systematic review of the literature. Int J Sports PhysTher. 2012;7(6): 647–662.

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