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5 Treatment Myths about Physical Therapy

5 Treatment Myths about Physical Therapy

By: Richard Gardner, PT, DPT: Board Certified in Orthopaedic Physical Therapy


Hello Specialized Physical Therapy patients and friends and Happy Spring!  The weather is getting nicer and like many you may be increasing your activity to enjoy the outdoors here in NWA.  For this month’s blog post I wanted to do a new format in which we bust a few myths surrounding physical therapy.  Many of the public we serve come in and had no idea that physical therapy could help with (fill in the blank.)  It is my personal mission to help our community understand and pick physical therapy first when it comes to musculoskeletal treatment.  So without further delay lets get onto the first myth because nobody likes a long blog post!

Myth 1: I need a doctor’s referral to come to physical therapy

One does not need a doctor’s referral to come to PT.  Don’t get me wrong, several of our patients come to us because our wonderful physicians, nurse practitioners, and allied health professionals refer them to us.  However, patients can be seen without a referral.  Our wonderful state has what is called Direct Access, which means they can be seen without a referral.  On occasion your medical insurance coverage may require your physician to sign off on our plan of care but we handle all aspects of getting that from your doctor. 

Myth 2: Physical therapists are massage therapists

This is another myth several people can think.  Physical therapists are not massage therapists.  Don’t get me wrong, the benefits of massage are great, and massage can be part of your physical therapy program but that is just part of what we may or may not do.  At Specialized Physical Therapy we are highly skilled with our manual therapy skills and offer several techniques to help relieve your pain.  These techniques include dry needling, cupping, joint mobilization including high velocity / low amplitude thrust treatment (joints popping😊,) and massage.  In addition to manual therapy your treatment will also include active exercise to help you with your specific biomechanical impairments.  With that said, if massage is what you are needing for active recovery or maintenance then check out our massage therapist Tim Barnard, LMT by clicking here!  He is awesome at what he does and several of our patients see him on a regular basis. 

Myth 3: Physical therapy will hurt or not help

This is absolutely not true!  A vast majority of people who come to physical therapy get relief from their condition.  Research also supports the use of physical therapy for several conditions.  In addition, to get relief does not require going through high levels pain to get there.  Over the years physical therapists have been coined the term “physical torturers” by the public.  Is everything that we do pain free? No, but sometimes getting range of motion back on the knee or shoulder requires to push the tissue into mild discomfort.  You will not be tortured to get there.  It is a graded movement and added within tolerance.  Our professionals work to allow you to progress with minimal pain. The sounds that come from our facility are sounds of laughter and enjoyment, not screams of pain.  We do push people with exercise but again, this is pushing your body to be stronger.  If we don’t challenge you, then there will not be change.

Myth 4: I can find the exercises I need from Google, YouTube, Instagram, or my friend who works out

This is a huge myth out there in the sea of social media.  One does not have to look long before they come across a post that states, “ Do you have pain (fill in the spot?)  Then do these exercises and it will go away!”  Then people will proceed to do the exercises and surprisingly that does not fix the problem.  Now don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with people trying to help.  I often use YouTube myself for my home handyman projects.  However, the human body is much different than changing out the garbage disposal on the kitchen sink.  No two patients are exactly the same and therefore will not need the exact same program.  What a good physical therapist will do is recognize this and design a program specifically for you.  From there you should be progressed and challenged at an appropriate level.  If you are not being challenged by your PT and you leave feeling that you could do everything you are PAYING for at the clinic….then leave and find a new PT.  Your time and recovery is too valuable to be getting treatment from a PT that is not pushing you and helping. 

Myth 5: I have been to physical therapy before and all clinics are the same

This is where I get on a soap box for 2 reasons.  Number 1, the type of clinic you go to matters so much in your recovery.  Number 2, your physical therapist needs to be highly skilled.  In doing physical therapy for 9 years and working in a number of clinics before I opened Specialized Physical Therapy I came to realize that not all therapy is created equal.  I have been in the terrible clinics where the identity of clinic is not putting patient outcomes first.  I have been in clinics where the reception area is not a place that makes patients feel welcomed.  I have been in clinics that hire therapist where the only requirement is a legal license and a heart beat.  These clinics are often a source of bad patient experiences and poor outcomes.  Even worse, they hurt our whole profession as a whole because it makes our public look at PT as an option that does not help.  I opened Specialized Physical Therapy to provide care that shows how much you matter to us from the moment you are greeted at the front desk.  Our brand is to give great care and use all the tools at our disposal to do so.  In our clinic you will find the best manual therapy and exercise progression available.  Our therapists are HIGHLY skilled and attend continuing education every year to constantly grow.  We will get to know you.  I have a policy for my staff called the drop and give me 3 drill.  This means that we need to know 3 things about you as a human that does not pertain to why you are seeking our services.  Some examples are, “Where are you from? What do you do? Do you have kids/grandchildren? What are your hobbies? Etc.” We require our patients to have 3 things when they come see us. Number 1: A warm welcome.  Number 2: Highly skilled care from our clinical staff. Number 3: Our patient must smile or laugh at least 1 time during treatment.  We live by this policy and our 5 star 100+ google review page reflects that.  Not all therapy is created equal.  If you have found place that provides great care….then that is great.  If you are going somewhere and desire more or feel underserved…then change.  If it is us great, if it is another great PT place in town that is fine too. 

So there you have 5 myths of physical therapy that patients will often think.  There are more and someday I may write about more.  Until then if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to email me at rgardner@ptnwa.com.  Happy Spring everybody