Physical Therapy FAQ

Rachel Proctor, PT, DPT

What is a Physical Therapist?

Physical therapists (PT’s) are health care professionals that help people improve function in their daily lives.  We may work in a variety of places including private practices, hospitals, nursing homes, schools, fitness facilities, and work settings.  We can work with people of all ages from newborns in the neonatal intensive care unit to end of life care in hospice. 

What conditions can physical therapists treat?

Physical therapists can treat orthopedic conditions such as an ankle sprain, but also help people rehabilitate following stroke, heart attack, and other medical conditions.  We may not treat the medical condition directly, but we can help guide you in returning to daily activities independently.  For example, a physical therapist may help an individual with multiple sclerosis get stronger and improve their ability to finish a shopping trip independently. At the same time, the individual is also under the care of a physician for appropriate medical interventions. 

What about the lesser known conditions that physical therapists treat?

Did you know that some PT’s also treat pelvic health conditions including pelvic floor dysfunction, incontinence, endometriosis, interstitial cystitis, and gastrointestinal conditions including constipation?  PT’s can also treat dizziness and vertigo, TMJ dysfunction, lymphedema, and perform wound care.  Many PT’s choose to specialize in one of these areas and receive advanced training and certification. 

What treatments do physical therapists use?

PT’s can use a variety of treatments including manual therapy, therapeutic exercise, gait training, neuromuscular re-education, biofeedback, and education.  A large part of what we do is to educate individuals on how to best manage their own conditions and health.  Our ultimate goal is to help you be independent with your own care and check in with us when you need help or guidance. 

How do I know if I am seeing a “good” physical therapist?

A physical therapist should LISTEN to you.  We should listen to your story, your goals, and your priorities.  With this information, we use our expertise in the musculoskeletal and neuromuscular systems to help form realistic goals for treatment.  If you find yourself under the care of a physical therapist who does not listen, answer your questions, or does not educate you about how to manage your own pain/function, then find another physical therapist who will.  Now this does not mean that a PT won’t challenge you and push you out of your comfort zone.  We absolutely will, but we should do so in partnership with you and establish common goals. 

How to get the best out of physical therapy?

Physical therapy is NOT a quick fix.  I cannot magically fix anyone who walks through my door.  The best physical therapy outcomes happen when a patient is committed to doing their part outside of their physical therapy treatment sessions.  This may include a home exercise program, life style changes, and sometimes a whole new way of feeling and thinking about your own body.  It often includes ups and downs, good and bad days, and sometimes you may feel like you take steps forward only to later take a step back.  This is all normal.  As your physical therapist, I am here to encourage you and help give you the tools you need to make progress toward your goals. 

Can physical therapy still help me even if I have never been the type of person to go the gym?

YES.  We can absolutely help you and you don’t have to go the gym unless you want to.  I meet you wherever your starting point may be and we establish a plan together.

Does physical therapy hurt?

Physical therapy should not be tortuous.  There are times when you may feel muscle soreness or fatigue, but our goal is not to cause you pain.  Sometimes people can have a period of soreness or exacerbation in symptoms following myofascial release (one type of manual therapy) called a healing crisis or response, but this is part of your body’s healing journey.  It can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days.  In this situation, the best thing to do is continue your home stretches and self-care to the best of your ability.  Be kind to yourself as you heal.  As your physical therapist, I will explain the reasoning behind any method of treatment.  As a patient, you always have the right to ask questions, say no, or to stop at any time.

Be well and feel free to contact us with any additional questions. 

Rachel Proctor, PT, DPT joined Hands On Physical Therapy in 2018 and has been practicing since graduating from Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons in 2015.