Updated: Oct 15
October is National Physical Therapy Month. It is a good time to reflect on my profession and think about why I do what I do and how Physical Therapy can help you. I chose the profession of physical therapy because I felt it was the perfect intersection between my love of science, helping people and the benefits of exercise. That's pretty close to a direct quote from my graduate school application. With more experience under my belt, I actually believe this still holds pretty true.
Physical Therapists have a unique ability to help people with natural means including corrective exercises, manual therapy, posture and ergonomic advice and maybe most importantly education. We arm you with the power of knowledge to help you understand your pain or problem and what steps can be taken to find relief and restore your function. We don't prescribe pain medication or anti-inflammatory medication and we don't order diagnostic tests. (Most of the time we don't need them for a successful outcome). Instead, we engage the powers of listening, observing, using our hands and our words to figure out what is going on and address the factors that are causing your pain or problem.
We see in the literature that physical therapy is a safe and effective alternative to prescription pain medication. As a profession we are working hard to help curb the opioid epidemic in this country through helping people improve their pain and function without the need for pain medication. The more we learn, the more we know that pain is a complex, multifactorial sensation that is an output from our brains. It is the result of our body's perception of threat which can be biological, psychological or social. That's why it's so important for your physical therapist to see the whole picture and learn your whole story. We are trained to screen for things like depression, anxiety and red flag signs that may indicate we aren't the right provider for you. We can help get you in the right office and find the help you need. In other instances, you may benefit from physical therapy but we aren't the whole team. In that case we can help you build the support network you need.
Managing musculoskeletal pain is a billion dollar industry. You many not know that going to a physical therapist first is not only an option but could save you money. It's hard to enter a doctor's office for less than $250 and that's before any tests are taken. An MRI is upwards of several thousand and it isn't a very good at diagnosing the cause of pain. Depending on your insurance deductible, you could be well on your way to spending $5-6000 before you ever get any practical advice about how to remedy your problem. Your primary care provider is skilled at managing your general health but when it comes to aches and pain they don't have the education or frankly the time to spend with you to properly address your issues.
Physical Therapists are experts in understanding movement and how the musculoskeletal system should perform. Physical Therapist in the state of Montana and many other states have Direct Access which means, you don't need a doctor's prescription to go to your PT. (There may be a restriction placed on this by your insurance company so it's best to check with them if you are planning to use your insurance for PT care.)
So, if you are struggling with pain and functional limitations and you're not seeing results with a wait and see approach, passive only treatments, medication or activity modification, find a physical therapist to help you. Much like other professions, there is more than one approach and each therapist has developed their craft in a different way. They've attended different schools, taken different continuing education courses, they've worked with different populations and they have different interests. The therapeutic alliance with any provider is very important so, if you've been to physical therapy and you weren't satisfied, try someone else. Ask your like minded friends if they have any recommendations. Another tip, many clinics, including mine (Inertia Phyisotherapy) offer free consultations. This is an excellent, risk free way to get a gauge on whether a particular provider is right for you!
Bottom Line is, physical therapists can help you improve your function, decrease your pain and live your best life through helping you stay engaged and active in the things that you love.
About the Author- Ana Soulia is a Dr. of Physical Therapy and founder of Inertia Physiotherapy in Missoula Montana. She specializes in treating complex problems and persistent pain issues. She is passionate about helping her clients move well and enjoy an active Montana Lifestyle.
Her Integrative Approach to PT emphasizes the need to evaluate the whole person in order to understand how all the systems contribute to pain and nagging injuries. If you are in the Missoula area and you'd like to know more about Ana and how her practice is different please visit www.InertiaPhysioMT.com and schedule a FREE Discovery Session.
1001 S 4th St W. Suite 4
Missoula MT 59801