Physical therapy can be beneficial for a wide range of conditions, helping people of all ages to relieve pain, return to their prior level of functioning, and improve overall health and well-being. It can prevent the need for surgery, or if surgery is required, encourage quicker recovery. Athletes often turn to physical therapists to design prevention or recovery exercise programs to ensure a safe return to the sport. Individuals at high risk for falls can get specific workouts that challenge balance safely, mimicking real-life situations to prevent an accident.
In addition to the physical benefits PT can provide, it may be beneficial financially too. Scientific research has shown that using physical therapy as the first management strategy for lower back pain resulted in 72 percent lower costs within the first year.
While back pain may be one of the most common injuries physical therapy can help, those with head and neck injuries like these may see significant benefits too.
Whiplash often occurs in those who’ve been injured in a motor vehicle accident, caused by a sudden jerk to the head, leading to symptoms that can include neck pain, headaches, fatigue, dizziness, and jaw pain. One study revealed that more than three-quarters of patients involved in rear-end collisions suffered from neck pain that lasted over a week, and more than half suffered from it a year following the collision.
Ongoing whiplash pain can often be successfully treated through physical therapy. A physical therapist prescribes and instructs patients through an exercise program meant to strengthen muscles, improve posture, and restore normal movement. Sometimes they use transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, or TENS, in combination with exercise. It applies a mild electrical current to the skin to improve muscle strength and temporarily ease neck pain.
Headaches affect many people as one of the nervous system’s most common disorders, with migraines, tension headaches, and cervicogenic headaches being some of the most common. Physical therapists can provide proven hands-on techniques designed to alleviate muscle stiffness, decrease tension and spasms, and increase mobility of the head and neck to relieve them. They may use massage, muscle manipulation, and posture training as well. The specific treatment depends on the kind of headache the patient has – the therapist will perform an examination to diagnose which type and develop an effective treatment plan to decrease the frequency and pain.
A concussion is a type of brain injury caused by a significant impact to the head or if the head is shaken aggressively. It typically causes symptoms like headaches, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, confusion, and memory loss. Concussions are particularly common in high-contact sports like football. While most adults recover from a concussion within a couple of weeks and children within four weeks, those who experience symptoms beyond that can particularly benefit from physical therapy. It can also be beneficial as early as a few days following the injury, helping an individual retain and maintain their physiological conditioning as much as possible during the recovery process.