October is National Physical Therapy Month and we’re celebrating by recognizing the positive ways PT can help people move forward. Here are 31 unique PT applications you may not have known about. These are designed to help you stay active throughout your life!
1. Foot and Ankle Conditions, such as plantar fasciitis, turf toe, and bunions
A physical therapist (PT) can help determine the underlying causes of conditions such as plantar fasciitis, turf toe and bunions, and provide treatment including manual therapy, orthotics, taping, and more, to help provide relief.
2. Developmental challenges
A pediatric physical therapist is skilled at recognizing areas of a child’s development that may not be progressing appropriately. PTs can then design and implement a program to help improve areas such as strength, sensory processing (developing the five senses), balance and coordination.
3. Cancer recovery
A physical therapist is an important partner in helping patients recover from cancer and its treatment effects. Interventions often include a personalized progressive exercise program that has been shown to greatly improve cancer survival and recovery, as well as management of pain, edema (swelling) and deconditioning.
4. Lymphedema (swelling of the legs and arms)
Physical therapists go through specialized training to help reduce a buildup of fluid (edema) that can occur in any part of your body (typically on one side) as a result of a damaged lymphatic system. A PT is trained on how to manually push the swelling out of the affected areas of your body.
5. Urinary incontinence
Physical therapy can assist both women and men that may be suffering from urinary incontinence (inability to hold urine) and erectile dysfunction by retraining and strengthening the muscles within the pelvic floor.
6. Vertigo from a Variety of Sources, including positional
Physical therapists are skilled at treating acute dizziness that is worsened with head movement in a particular direction. A PT is trained in a technique that helps to reposition the tiny crystals in your ear that can be responsible for vertigo, as well as treating many other forms of dizziness and imbalance.
7. Effects of concussion
Physical therapists are trained in aiding in the recovery process for patients that continue to show symptoms from a concussion lasting more than two weeks. PTs can determine if remaining symptoms are due to faults in proper eye tracking (symptoms increase when watching things moving fast or very busy backgrounds), migraines, faults with the autonomic nervous system (symptoms worsen with increased physical activity), or remaining tension in muscles from the initial insult.
8. Aquatic therapy
Physical therapists provide aquatic therapy for a variety of conditions, including a successful transition back to full weight bearing on land and pain management. For example, it may be used to help treat older individuals with arthritis or fibromyalgia as well as young individuals after ACL reconstruction.
9. Carpal tunnel syndrome
Physical therapists are trained in techniques that help decrease tension on the median nerve (the nerve responsible for carpal tunnel syndrome) in addition to providing education on ways to optimize your work area and tasks to prevent excessive loading on the nerves in the hand. PTs can help distinguish numbness in the hand that can come from other sources, including pinched nerves in the neck or arm.
10. De Quervain’s
This painful condition in the wrist can be effectively treated by a physical therapist through physical modalities, exercises and splinting, not to mention providing education on ways to optimize your work area and tasks to prevent excessive loading on the wrist and thumb.
Bursitis is inflammation of a bursa – fluid-filled sacs that exist in and around multiple joints such as the shoulder, elbow, hip, knee and ankle. Physical therapists can help distinguish pain that comes from a bursa vs. other pain sources and provide the correct education, advice, exercise, manual treatment or modality to help relieve symptoms and treat the underlying cause that may be irritating the bursa.
12. Patellofemoral Pain (pain behind knee cap)
This common condition occurs in individuals of all ages. A PT helps determine and treat, when possible, the underlying factors that promote wear and tear to the joint, such as pes planus (flat feet), weak hip muscles, tight knee and hip muscles and poor loading mechanics.
Tendinitis, often called tendinosis or tendinopathy, can occur in various areas of the body such as the knee, ankle, elbow and shoulder, often from overuse of the muscles/tendons. A physical therapist can help alleviate symptoms through various treatment approaches, but more importantly, analyze factors such as inflexibility, decreased strength and altered body mechanics to help decrease symptoms and prevent recurrence.
Physical therapists use manual techniques to help realign and increase mobility throughout the spine. In addition, they can provide soft tissue mobilization and/or dry needling (a type of massage) to decrease tension in the muscles of the neck that can commonly reproduce headaches from the base of the skull, behind the eyes, and around the temples. Your PT will also help strengthen your neck muscles and improve your posture to prevent the occurrence of future headaches.
Fibromyalgia is often a disabling condition causing pain in multiple areas of the body. A PT can help educate a patient as to why they are having pain and help guide individuals with the condition through a customized exercise program to help improve symptoms and decrease pain.
16. Wound care
Physical therapists are often involved in wound care, both in hospital and clinic settings. This includes wound prevention (such as pressure sores), wound debridement (cleaning), dressing (bandage) management, managing edema (swelling), and ensuring a patient is able to return to full physical functionality after a wound is healed.
17. Effects of peripheral vascular disease
When blood supply to the legs is affected, Physical Therapists can help with associated symptoms such as pain, edema, muscle weakness and evaluation for an assistive device to make mobility easier.
18. Children with congestion issues such as cystic fibrosis
Physical therapists help patients with congestive diseases by strengthening their diaphragm (the muscle responsible for the inhalation of air) and by performing manual therapy to help drain fluids from the lungs to allow patients to take a larger breath.
19. Pre- and Post-natal physical therapy
Pregnancy and childbirth can have both major and minor effects on your body including pelvic pain, incontinence and sexual dysfunction that a PT who specializes in women’s health can help alleviate.
20. Weight management
Weight loss presents many challenges including aches and pains that can prevent you from being active. PTs offer professional advice and treatment to help you move better as well as help you define activity goals for weight loss and management.
21. Jaw pain
Jaw pain is a common affliction caused by various sources including muscle tension, bad habits and poor posture. A physical therapist can use various methods including manual therapy, exercise and education to help alleviate this painful condition.
22. Pet physical therapy
Some PTs treat pets, such as dogs, after injuries and surgery. It takes a creative approach to help your four-legged loved one learn to walk again.
23. Alzheimer’s disease and dementia
Physical therapists are often involved at all stages of Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia and can help prevent falls, improve mobility and educate patients and their family on ways to maximize safety. They can also advise on physical activity to help decrease the effects of dementia.
24. Cerebral Palsy
Physical Therapists are integral members of a patient’s care team for mild to severe cases of Cerebral Palsy and can help improve mobility, gait, balance, muscle tone and provide advice on wheelchairs, as needed.
Physical therapists are often involved in helping to manage this painful condition. PTs work with patients to decrease muscle and joint pain, improve range of motion and recommend strengthening exercises so they feel better, faster.
26. Multiple Sclerosis
Physical therapists are frequently called upon to help improve strength, mobility, gait and pain associated with exacerbations or progressive multiple sclerosis. When needed, they help patients learn to cope and compensate for progressive neurological diseases.
Physical therapists often provide a professional evaluation plus recommendations for mobility assistance and strategies to individuals with ALS.
Physical therapists serve an integral role in managing osteoporosis by helping patients stay active and as strong as possible to help prevent fractures. Treatments include improving balance to help prevent falls, loading the body to prevent further loss of bone density, and improving posture.
29. Spinal cord injury
Aggressive physical therapy early on after a spinal cord injury can help minimize nerve damage and even help restore limited abilities (NIH). For individuals that are less acute, PTs work to maximize their function and improve their quality of life by showing them how to independently care for themselves and maintain strength and flexibility throughout their bodies.
30. Parkinson’s disease
This disease affects the motor systems of the brain making movement extremely difficult. The disease is often managed with medication or treated with surgery, however PTs play a key role in maximizing your ability to move with less effort.
31. Herniated disc
Herniated discs most often occur in the lumbar region of the spine and are the result of nucleus pulposus (gel-like substance) breaking through the anulus fibrosus (tire-like structure) of an intervertebral disc (spinal shock absorber). A PT can help you recover with a combination of passive treatments, such as deep tissue massage, and active treatments, such as a customized program to condition and strengthen your back.
To learn more or to find a physical therapist near you, check out our PT Finder.