5 Myths of Physical Therapy

Over the course of my career I have noticed there are many common sayings about Therapists and Physical Therapy.  I thought I would share a few of them, as well as 5 common myths I hear on a regular basis.  First, a couple of sayings:

“What is the difference between a Physical Therapist and a Terrorist?  –you can negotiate with a terrorist”

“PT stands for Pain and Torture”

Physical Therapy Myths Blog Post Utah Physical Therapy

Now the Myths:

  1. You need a doctor’s referral to see a Physical Therapist.
    False: In Utah, as well as every other state, you do not need a referral to see a Physical Therapist.  PT’s are trained in differential diagnosis, meaning they can differentiate between conditions that need the expertise of a medical doctor, and those that can be treated effectively with physical therapy.  Some insurances, however, do require a referral to cover treatment, which is why we work closely with the physicians to help you obtain those referrals when needed.
  2. No Pain No Gain
    I hear this one frequently.  “Isn’t Physical Therapy going to hurt?”  The answer is, “it depends”.  The majority of the time, we are trying to reduce the pain rather than increase it.  There are some conditions, particularly post-surgical, where we have to push through some pain to strengthen or improve ROM, but even during those treatments, we are trying to minimize pain to gain the desired outcome.  For many conditions, we don’t want an increase in pain due to the fact that that increase in pain will cause compensation somewhere else, or will inhibit the correct muscle contraction.  An example is back pain.  We do not want to increased the back pain with treatment because it will cause some of the important stabilizing muscles to turn off because of the pain.There are some treatments that are not the most comfortable, such as ASTYM, but this is discomfort that doesn’t last, and has a specific purpose of increasing the healing the the tissue.  Overall, the treatments we provide are meant to decrease the pain, rather than increase it.
  3. Physical Therapy is only for people after surgery or car accidents.
    False:  Physical Therapy is for a variety of conditions from chronic headaches, to low back pain, to ankle sprains.  It is true a Physical Therapist is skilled in treatment following surgery, as well as after a car accident, but those are just the tip of the iceberg.  Most of the time treatment is directed to decreasing pain, but some treatment are looking at improving efficiency of running and other sports, as well as preventing injury.  If you have any questions regarding aches or pain you have, feel free to come in for a free consultation where we will let you know if your problem is something we treat.
  4. There are many healthcare professionals who do Physical Therapy.
    False: Physical Therapy can only be provided by a licensed Physical Therapist.  There are other professions who claim they do “Physical Therapy”, but they have not been specifically trained or licensed to provide that treatment.  Physical Therapists are uniquely qualified to provide therapy for musculoskeletal and neurological conditions, and have the skills necessary to see significant improvement in those conditions.  Be cautious of those healthcare professionals claiming to do Physical Therapy who are not Physical Therapists.
  5. I can do Physical Therapy myself.
    With the wealth of knowledge and information at our fingertips on YouTube and other online sites, most of the time patients have Google’d their conditions long before they see a healthcare provider.  There are many great blogs and websites that deal with instruction on exercise and pain relief, and they can be a great resource for the right person.  The problem I have seen is when people that I see find exercises to do online that are not right for their condition.  Not only can this cause more pain, but can also cause the opposite of the desired result.For example, a recent patient of mine came in with complaint of shoulder pain.  He had tried exercises and stretches on his own to strengthen and reduce the pain in the shoulder, but the pain kept getting worse.  On examination, I found he was having symptoms of a disc pinching on a nerve coming from his neck that was presenting with pain at the shoulder.  The exercises he was performing were increasing the tension in his neck and putting his nerve on stretch, causing it to get even more irritated and painful.I am not opposed to researching things online, or even treating yourself with that information, but when something isn’t responding as it should, or as quickly, consultation with a Physical Therapist is invaluable.  With the help of a Physical Therapist, you can gain better and faster results for most conditions.  We do Free Screenings, so come on in if you are wondering if we can help you.

Physical Therapy Myths Blog Post Utah Physical Therapy

If you any questions regarding Physical Therapy treatment, or if you have heard of some good sayings or myths, feel free to message me.  Thanks!

-David Butler, DPT, OCS
Owner, Clinic Director
Utah Physical Therapy
230 N 1200 E ste 103
Lehi, UT 84043