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Beneficiary > Resources > Physical therapy: Moving Better, Feeling Better

Physical therapy: Moving Better, Feeling Better

By Tanise Edwards, M.D.
Published by United HealthCare Services e-newsletter, Healthy Mind Healthy Body
October 2013

physical_therapy.jpgOur bodies are meant to be in motion. But, that movement doesn't always come easily — particularly after an injury or surgery or if you're living with a chronic condition.

Maybe you're having muscle or joint problems — or other health conditions — which make it difficult to work, walk, sit, lie down or stand comfortably. If so, your doctor may suggest you see a physical therapist, or PT.

Unsure what that means for you? Here are answers to five common questions about physical therapy.*

1. What do PTs do?
They specialize in helping you move and function better. They may work with you to:

  • Build strength and stamina
  • Improve flexibility
  • Help you be more mobile
  • Relieve or manage pain
  • Avoid surgery

2. When can PTs help?
Often, they have a role in your recovery if you've had surgery, a stroke, or a sports- or work-related injury. But, they can also help when you're coping with a chronic health condition, such as Parkinson's disease or arthritis.

3. What should I expect during my first visit?
On your first visit, the PT will talk with you about your condition. That may include questions about how you're functioning day to day. He or she may also examine you — and discuss how physical therapy might be of help.

Let your therapist know your goals for therapy. He or she will also consider your doctor's input to come up with a therapy plan that's right for you. It may include exercises for you to do on your own at home. Committing to the home exercises — and following your PT's advice closely — can help make your recovery faster, fuller and safer.

Your therapist may be able to tell you how long you'll likely need therapy. If that's not clear when you start, ask if there are milestones or other factors that will indicate that your therapy is complete.

4. What happens during a session with a PT?
Physical therapists tailor their work to each person. Depending on your needs, your PT may use different techniques and tools, such as:

  • Specific exercises
  • Heat and cold treatments
  • Massage
  • Electrical or ultrasound stimulation
  • Devices that aid movement, such as canes or special footwear

5. How should I prepare for my visit?
Consider making a list of:

  • Any questions you have. See "Questions for your physical therapist" for some ideas to get you started.
  • Your symptoms. Include if they improve or worsen at certain times — or with specific activities.
  • All the medicines you take. Don't forget over-the-counter products, such as vitamins and herbals.
  • Anything that could have contributed to your problem. This could include previous injuries, your surroundings or recent stress in your life.
  • Key information about your personal and family medical history.
  • Contact info for your primary care doctor and other providers. If you wish, the therapist may pass on information about your progress.

Also, if possible, wear loose, casual clothing to your first visit. That way, if your PT wants to start exercises right away, you'll be ready.

*Check your benefits plan to see what services may be covered.

This article is provided by Healthy Mind Healthy Body.  Please click on the link below to register for your own monthly newsletter.

© 2013, United HealthCare Services, Inc. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.