Physical therapy is a common solution for those who are recovering from an injury or surgery. But it’s not just athletes or people post-surgery who could benefit from a little PT. In fact, there are loads of other reasons you might benefit from a visit to a physical therapist, many of which you probably didn’t know about.
If you haven’t visited a physical therapist, you might not be exactly clear on what they do. To get a little background on PT, we spoke with physical therapist Kelley Lindstrom. “As a physical therapist, my goal is to restore normal function after injury or surgery and to provide strategies for injury prevention,” she tells SheKnows. “There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to recovery. Anyone looking to improve mobility, increase performance or reduce pain is a fit for physical therapy.”
There are quite a few common reasons someone might see a physical therapist, she notes. These include people who have experienced sprains or strains in areas such as the back, ankle, knee or shoulder. Also, those who have undergone surgery are also frequent visitors, especially if the surgery is on the ankle, knee, shoulder, back or spine. General muscle aches and pains can also be treated by a physical therapist, and those with nerve-related pain (such as in the elbow or finger or those who experience sciatica) often seek PT help as well.
A physical therapist can treat a dizzying array of maladies beyond those listed above, though. Here are some of the lesser-known but relatively common reasons you might seek the help of a physical therapist.
Sports-related pelvic pain
If you experience pain in the pelvic area right after participating in sports activities, some PT can help you, Leon Turetsky, certified personal trainer and corrective exercise specialist, tell SheKnows.
“Many folks get pain from not moving with proper mechanics and posture,” he says. “A physical therapist can run you through several tests to identify your movement dysfunction, similar to what you do in your sport, that could lead to the pelvic pain. Then they’ll be able to prescribe an exercise program that will help you maintain proper posture and movement in your sporting activity.”
If you wake up in the morning with a sore jaw or are in pain when you chew, you might benefit from some physical therapy, Dr. Karena Wu, an orthopedic physical therapist, tells SheKnows. “The jaw joint can be mobilized and treated with joint and soft tissue mobilization and exercises for strengthening,” she explains.
Vertigo (a false sense of motion, possibly a spinning sensation) can make people feel awful, Wu explains, and it can be caused by tiny calcium particles in the inner ear that move out of place. Fortunately, a physical therapist can help solve this problem. “The crystals can be moved back into the correct place in the ear [and] that immediately relieves vertigo,” she says. Also, if vertigo is caused by upper-neck or brain trauma, guess what? Some PT can help in those cases as well.
If you’ve ever had a headache that starts at the base of your neck and extends up your head, around your head or down into your neck, you may have had a cervicogenic headache, Lindstrom explains. “We treat [cervicogenic headaches] with spinal manipulation/mobilization and exercises to improve shoulder and neck mobility,” she adds.
There are a number of different types of situations that can warrant a visit to a physical therapist that specializes in pelvic health, Rachel Gelman, physical therapist and branch director of Pelvic Health and Rehabilitation Center, tells SheKnows. She notes that her patients are often people who are pregnant or postpartum, people who experience pain with sex and those who experience pelvic pain (in the penis, vulva, vagina, rectum or perineum). Also, a pelvic physical therapist can assist anyone who experiences constipation, pain with bowel movements, rectal itching, urinary incontinence or urgency, frequency or pain with urination.
Rena Eleázar, a physical therapist and the founder and owner of Match Fit Performance, says she works with a fair number of contact-sport athletes in her practice. “Concussion management is very multidisciplinary, but PT can help with many facets of it,” she tells SheKnows. “We can help with the musculoskeletal pain, usually in the neck, that is felt after the head injury. We can help with physical performance testing for when athletes are getting ready to return to their sport. We can help work with sport-specific activities, such as agility, coordination and making decisions on the field.” Eleázar also says she works with athletes directly on the sideline after an injury to determine if they’re safe to return to the field of play.
According to Lindstrom, pregnant patients have a unique set of problems that physical therapists can most certainly assist with. “Back, core and glute [butt] posture is thrown off when the center of gravity is pushed forward during pregnancy, causing pain in those areas,” she explains.
Diastasis recti (ab separation) is something that happens during pregnancy (though it also happens in nonpregnant people). Lindstrom explains that while it’s common during pregnancy, not everyone recovers, which puts them at risk for developing a hernia. “With physical therapy, we work with patients to strengthen their core to minimize their ab separation,” she says.
There are tons of reasons you might want to visit a physical therapist. While some situations obviously warrant a visit, such as recovering after Achilles tendon-repair surgery or trying to restore normal function after a broken foot, there are other circumstances when a visit (or six) to a physical therapist might make a huge difference in your life.