An Essential Guide to Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is used in cases involving paralysis or limited mobility due to injury, illness or aging or environmental conditions. It is, also, used to relieve pain and restore the body's to its previous level of strength, healthy, flexibility, balance, coordination and endurance.
Physical therapists may or may not be conventional health care practitioners and is divided into many specialized areas. For example: Sports medicine, orthopedic, pediatrics and industrial.  
At its fundamental level, physical therapy is used to make daily activities like walking, climbing stairs and getting up and down out of chairs and beds easier and less painful for the patient.
Physical Therapy
History of Physical Therapy
The earliest forms of physical therapy are attributed to the ancient Greek doctors Hippocrates, Galen and Hector.
Modern physical therapy began in late 19th century Britain after American orthopedic surgeons had begun treating post-operative patients and those with disabilities through the use of massage and physical exercise. It became an established practice during the course of World War I and was generally carried out by nurses. Physical therapy then became the subject of medical research. 
By 1921 the first professional association for physical therapists, the American Women's Physical Therapeutic Association was formed. Afterwards the American Physical Therapy Association was founded.
During the 1940s, physical therapy treatments mainly involved such treatments as exercise, massage and traction. By the 1950s methods of physical manipulation of the joints and spine were incorporated into the practice. Soon after physical therapists began expanding their practice from hospitals to a variety of other settings.
In 1974 the International Federation of Orthopedic Manipulative Physical Therapists was formed, which promotes manual therapy. 
What are the Benefits of Physical Therapy?
Physical therapy is helpful for people with many different kinds of conditions and can be performed in a wide variety of settings. It helps to restore and maintain physical function and minimize limitations, disabilities and pain.
Physical therapy can be applied to people of all ages from infants to the aged. It can be used to treat congenital or acquired conditions. 
It is used to help people who are ill as well as those who are very healthy but who wish to enhance athletic performance. 
It is a simple therapy that can involve relatively safe and simple activities such as walking and swimming. Many forms of physical therapy are inexpensive and can be performed in a variety of settings convenient to the patient.
Physical therapy is beneficial to those who suffer from such conditions as:
  • Plantar fasciitis or "flat feet"
  • Arthritis, including osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Back pain
  • Balance problems
  • Breathing problems
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Musculoskeletal injuries and disorders.
  • Neck pain
  • Parkinson's disease.
  • Poor circulation
  • Post-partum
  • Post-surgical recovery
  • Rehabilitation after heart attack or stroke
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Tendon or ligament injury or disease
Physical therapy is beneficial in helping to promote a healthy lifestyle maintain health and preventing illness and physical deterioration. It, also, helps people adapt to their environments so they can learn to function as independently as possible.
Physical therapy may be used alone or in conjunction with allopathic or alternative health treatments.
How Is It Performed?
Physical therapy treatments are performed by the application of manual therapies and exercises as well as additional therapies involving massage, electrical stimulation, ultrasound and the application of ice and heat packs.
A physical therapist will first examine the patient, make a diagnosis and formulate a specially tailored treatment plan. 
If you suffer from pain or swelling, the physical therapist will work on this problem first. This may involve manual therapy and the application of hot and cold packs.
Physical therapy usually includes exercises including core exercises, weight training, walking, swimming and stretching. The physical therapist acts as a teacher and coach. 
Treatments are highly individualized depending on the needs of the patient. 
It is available in inpatient and outpatient settings, special rehabilitation facilities, extended care facilities, clinics, hospital, nursing homes, at your private home, in schools, fitness centers and work places. 
Most physical therapy treatments consist of therapeutic exercises involving isometrics or light weights, cardiovascular exercises such as swimming, manual therapy and training.
Why Should You Use Physical Therapy?
People who have a condition that keeps them from being able to go about their daily activities without pain or limitation should consider physical therapy.
Physical therapy is useful in cases of chronic pain, arthritis, back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, vertigo, migraines, athletic or industrial injuries, shoulder pain or injuries, osteoarthritis, stroke, weakness, fatigue and recovery after surgery or prolonged illness. It is valuable for the maintenance and enhancement of physical mobility.
If you have a health insurance policy, it is likely that it covers most forms of physical therapy. Usually no referral from a doctor is required.

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