Physical Therapists can do that?This has become a common conversation lately.
A friend says, "My neck hurts. Do you think I should see my Chiropractor or Doctor for this?" While this is a reasonable question, I am always surprised because the majority of the time, my friend knows that I am a Physical Therapist.
I respond with something such as, "Why don't you let me look at your neck. I am a Physical Therapist, you know."
"I didn't know a Physical Therapist could do that. I don't want a bunch of exercises. I just want the pain to go away."
Instead of replying, I often start working on the neck, using a combination of myofascial release, trigger point release, joint mobilization, and mentioning my trusty needles that could be helpful. After working on them for just a few minutes, the friend often feels better and says, "I had no idea a Physical Therapist could do that. It actually feels better!"
Upon talking with friends, family and patients, it has become clear that the vast majority of the population has no idea the range of a Physical Therapist's abilities. It seems the most surprising to the general population is the range of hands on techniques that the therapists possess. A skilled therapist can treat fascial restrictions, trigger points, joint malalignments, energy blockages, spasms, nerve pain, and herniated discs. This hands on treatment can be used for any part of the body and is key to allowing the body to respond to the strengthening, postural adjustments, and gait adjustments that will also be incorporated.
So, what is all this stuff and how does it work?
Fascial Restriction-- Fascia is a cobweb-like matrix that intertwines and infuses our entire body. From muscles, to organs, nerves to arteries, down to a cellular level. By doing myofascial release, the fascia can be released thereby relieving pressure in any number of ailments.
Trigger Point Release-- Trigger points are a hard area of connective tissue that cause the muscle to work improperly and thus cause pain. Using dry needle therapy, the trigger points can be released and the muscle then restored to its appropriate length. I have seen many muscles go from hard spasms to completely released in a matter of 30 seconds. It is an amazing tool!
Joint Malalignment--When the joint is stuck in an improper position, pain can occur. By using muscle energy techniques or manipulation, the joint can be properly alignment. Muscle energy techniques are a way to use your muscles to pull the joint into its proper position. Manipulation can also work when everything around the joint is mobile, but the joint still remains stuck. In this situation, using a high velocity thrust can restore mobility.
Energy Blockages--While not all Physical Therapists use energy techniques, I find it invaluable! Our bodies are a bundle of energy and can lead the therapist to finding the root cause of your problem. I use a combination of Healing Touch and Acupressure. Healing Touch is typically an off the body technique to balance the energy system so that the body can function properly. Acupressure is similar to Acupuncture, but without the needles. I use my fingers to restore the chi, or energy, throughout the meridians of the body. This is a fantastic combination with the other hands on techniques so that the body can respond more appropriately.
Spasms, Nerve Pain, and Herniated Discs--Often these conditions require similar treatment to one another. Spasms require myofascial release, dry needling, muscle energy techniques and energy work to calm the muscle. Nerves are many times causing pain due to the spasms in the body. Herniated discs are many times causing issues due to the surrounding spasms of the musculature and can be greatly resolved with the hands on techniques described here.
Amazing stuff, right? Are you thinking, wow, I just thought Physical Therapists gave exercise. Well, now you know that it is much more than that! Sure, you will get exercises to balance the malaligments, but there is so much more than that!
What are your thoughts? Anything surprising? You owe it to yourself to get the best treatment possible and be the best version of yourself. Seek out a great Physical Therapist today!
Kristin Thomas, PT, DPT, FDN is the owner of Core Wellness and Physical Therapy www.corewellnesstherapy.com.