How do you know if you need physical therapy? (2023)

physical therapyis a healthcare specialty that involves the assessment, assessment, and treatment of individuals with disabilitiesfunctional mobility.Choosing physical therapy has been shown to help you recover quickly and safely, and can save you money due to lower overall healthcare costs.


Physiotherapy services are provided byphysiotherapistswho are licensed professionals by the state in which they work. Physical therapists (or PTs as they are commonly known) must have a master's degree or clinical doctorate from an accredited institution and pass a licensing exam in order to practice.

Physiotherapists who are already practicing and have only a master's degree can continue to practice, but all new students to the profession are now required to obtain a doctorate.

Physical therapists are trained to assess your condition and help you regain maximum functional mobility and independence. They use a variety of treatment modalities and techniques to help you move and feel better. The treatment is very individual.

Do you need physical therapy?

How do you know if you need the qualified services of a physical therapist? If you have an injury or illness that results in pain, disability, or limited normal movement/loss of function, a physical therapist can help.Physiotherapists treat people across the lifespan. Many PTs specialize in treating a specific demographic, such as children, the elderly, or athletes. Regardless of age, if mobility is limited, physical therapy may be warranted to offer treatment and a strategy to improve function.

Some common problems that physical therapists evaluate and treat are:

  • stroke
  • fractures
  • spinal cord injury
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • sports injuries
  • amputations
  • Arthritis

Note, however, that physical therapists can treat many other issues besides those listed. Be sure to speak to your doctor if you think you might benefit from this treatment. If an injury or illness occurs that limits your ability to move safely or normally, a referral to a physical therapist may be made. Physical therapists work closely with patients, healthcare providers, and family members to ensure a safe and speedy return to maximum function.

Physiotherapists can also help youimpedeInjury or loss of functional mobility.

Your PT can analyze your movements before you get injured and offer strategies to help you stay healthy and move well. Some physical therapists work with athletes to keep them off the field and out of rehab, for example.

Where can you get physical therapy?

Physiotherapists work in a variety of different settings.Anywhere you come across a person who has difficulty with normal mobility you can find a physical therapist including:

  • In the hospital
  • In nursing homes
  • In ambulances
  • With sports teams
  • In schools (many state laws require children to receive services in the environment that is most familiar to them and/or that allows them to socialize with their peers)
  • At your home (if you are unable to walk due to illness or injury)
  • In cardiac rehabilitation centers

Preparation for physical therapy

As you prepare for physical therapy, there are a few things you can doensure you have a positive experience. Before choosing a physical therapist, ask questions first. Some PTs are clinical specialists; Finding someone who specializes in treating your specific problem can be helpful. You should inquire about insurance coverage, cancellation or no-show policies andwhat to wear to your PT appointment.

Your physical therapist should work with you to set specific goals, so be preparedTell your physical therapistexactly what you want to achieve during therapy. If you don't understand a particular treatment during your PT sessions, ask.

Your relationship with your physical therapist should feel like a therapeutic alliance, where you both work together to achieve specific goals.


When you first see a physical therapist, he or she will assess and assess your overall condition. He or she may take certain measurements to gather information about your illness or injury. Typically measured impairments may include:

  • Strength
  • freedom of movement
  • flexibility
  • Balance
  • Shared mobility
  • neurological function
  • Pains
  • heart function
  • lung function
  • General functional mobility

After gathering information about your injury or illness, your PT makes a prediction of your condition and can offer strategies to help you move and feel better. He or she will discuss your physical therapy goals and work with you to develop a treatment plan for your rehab.

What to expect during treatments

Physical therapists use many different techniques to help you relieve pain and stiffness, improve movement, andStrength, and improve mobility. Physical means such aswarmth, Eis,Ultrasonic, orelectrical stimulationcould be used. Manual techniques are often used to improve mobility.

Therapeutic exercise is often used by physical therapists to help people build musclefreedom of movement, increase strength and improve function. Patient education about a condition or disease is paramount to the practice of physical therapy, and therapists can use charts, models, and diagrams to help you understand your diagnosis and prognosis.

You may also be given modifications or exercises to do at home.

Are physical therapy and physical therapy the same?

A word from Verywell

It's natural to feel a bit scared when you first go to physical therapy. What will happen? Will therapy hurt? These feelings usually go away quickly once you meet your physical therapist and start working on your rehab goals. By understanding what your physical therapist can do to help you, you can have realistic expectations of your rehabilitation and achieve a positive outcome from your physical therapy experience.

frequently asked Questions

  • Is a Physical Therapist a Doctor?

    Not in the traditional sense. A physical therapist is not a doctor and cannot prescribe medication. However, you must first earn a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree to become a physical therapist. Anyone who has a doctorate may use the honorary title Dr. lead before his name.

  • What is PT?

    PT stands for Physical Therapy, although it's sometimes jokingly called Pain and Torture. Physiotherapy uses different modalities, massage, stretching and strengthening exercises.

    The goal is to improve or restore function and minimize pain. However, achieving this goal usually requires hard work and pain.

  • Do I need a referral for physical therapy?

    Whether or not you need a physical therapy referral will depend on your insurance company, but a referral from your GP or other doctor can't hurt.

    Physical therapists treat many different conditions including arthritis, balance problems, carpal tunnel syndrome, gait problems, fractures, frozen shoulders, sports injuries, stroke recovery, and many other things.

    If you think you need physical therapy, check with your insurance company if you need a referral and find a provider in your plan.

7 sources

Verywell Health uses only quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to back up the facts in our articles. Read ourseditorial processto learn more about how we fact-check our content and keep it accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. National Institute of Health.physical therapy.

  2. American Physical Therapy Association.Overview of Physical Therapist (PT) training..

  3. Bezner JR.Promoting health and well-being: Implications for physical therapist practice.Phys. Ther. 2015;95(10):1433-44. doi:10.2522/ptj.20140271

  4. American Physical Therapy Association.role of a physiotherapist.

  5. rehabilitation after stroke. National Institute on Aging website.

  6. Gómara-toldrà N., Sliwinski M., Dijkers MP.Physiotherapy after spinal cord injury: a systematic review of treatments with an emphasis on participation.J Spinal Med. 2014;37(4):371-9. doi:10.1179/2045772314Y.0000000194

  7. Merck manual.Rehabilitation after limb amputation.

Additional reading

  • Guide for the physiotherapist practice 3.0. Alexandria, VA: American Physical Therapy Association; 2014.

How do you know if you need physical therapy? (1)

VonBrett Sears, PT
Brett Sears, PT, MDT, is a Physical Therapist with over 20 years of experience in orthopedic and residential therapy.

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