• Barbara Oliveira

10 things you didn’t know about Physical Therapy

That Physiotherapy helps in the rehabilitation and maintenance of people's health, most people already know, but there are some facts that few know. With that in mind, we decided to gather some curiosities and information about this area. Here, we have compiled 10 facts about physical therapy you may not yet know:


1. There are different types of physical therapy

Physical therapy doesn’t only treat joints or low back pain, as most patients seem to think. Physical therapy has specialties in different practice areas:

  • orthopedic

  • geriatric

  • neurological

  • cardiopulmonary

  • pediatric

There are additionally two rising sub-specialty practices in physical therapy – vestibular rehabilitation, or the treatment of vertigo and other imbalance issues, and women’s health.

2. Physical therapy helps you manage age-related issues

Geriatric physical therapy focuses on specific conditions that come with age. Fortunately, most of them can be eased or prevented by fitting physical therapy into your life. Physical therapy is the best prevention and healing tool when it comes to dealing with age-related conditions.

3. Setting goals is important

Setting realistic and attainable goals at the beginning of your therapy is the best way to achieve successful results in your rehabilitation. When setting your target, you must consider what it is that you want to accomplish by the end of your program. Your physical therapist is your partner in making this decision and seeing it through, so cooperate with him or her in devising an appropriate treatment plan. You will also need your therapist’s help in re-adjusting these goals, when needed.

4. Physical therapists hold advanced degrees

Until the 1990s, you could work as a physical therapist with only a bachelor’s degree. This later changed, requiring anyone who wanted to become a physical therapist to enroll in a Master of Science program. Nowadays, most graduate programs offer a 3-year Doctorate of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree. Physical therapists have to pass a medical board exam in order to get their license.

5. Understand your dizziness and/or imbalance issues

Have you ever had an episode of dizziness and didn’t know why? Have you found that over time, your balance is not as great as it used to be? These symptoms can lead to decreased activity levels, anxiety, and a more sedentary lifestyle. With a thorough examination by our physical therapist, you may benefit from vestibular rehabilitation therapy. The vestibular system is composed of parts of the inner ear, related nerves, and the brain which processes sensory information regarding balance and eye movements. Vestibular dysfunction is a major risk factor for falls. Many factors can affect these issues, including age related degeneration of inner ear structures, medications (i.e., some antibiotics), head injuries, or potentially serious neurological conditions like stroke. Depending on the diagnosis, our therapist may perform some repositioning maneuvers. You may also be instructed in exercises designed to retrain the brain to adjust for disorienting signals, create new strategies to maintain balance, decrease dizziness, and improve your quality of life.

6. Improve your sense of well-being by teaching you how to breath better

Who would have thought that we can influence how we feel by being aware of how we breathe. When we breathe, we use a large muscle called the diaphragm which separates your chest from your abdominal cavity and has connections to your vagus nerve. The cool thing about this is that the vagus nerve, when stimulated (mainly during exhalation), increases activity of the parasympathetic nervous system. “What system?” you say, and “Why does this matter?” The parasympathetic nervous system is a vast network of nerve fibers that have connections from your brain to various organs in your body. It is mainly responsible for the rest and digest actions of our body, contributing to a reduction in your sense of anxiety, stress, and muscle tone, among other things. Physical therapists who have training in breathing dysfunction can evaluate and help teach you to effectively tap into that system.

7. Physical therapists and acronyms

Have you noticed your PT’s name with lots of letters after it and wondered what they meant? Current standards say that a physical therapist should be identified by their name, their profession (in this instance ‘PT’), and the highest degree obtained. If your physical therapist has a clinical doctorate degree, he will sign his name, and then write “PT, DPT” after it. You may see other letters after these basic ones. They represent other earned academic degree(s), specialist certification credentials in alphabetical order, other credentials, and other certification or professional honors (e.g., FAPTA). If you have any doubts, ask our physical therapist about the meaning of their initials.

8. Prevent injuries or PREHAB

Why wait until you are hurt or in pain to come in to see us? Do you want to improve your athletic performance? Now that we are getting more active due to reduction of COVID restrictions, some of us have started to get back into sporting activities, such as couch to 5k, basketball, football, soccer, etc... A physical therapist can evaluate if you may be vulnerable to future injuries, whether there are flexibility, strength and movement pattern issues. If you are at risk, they will help you develop a program designed to address your vulnerabilities and improve your chances of having a spectacular season or active retirement.

9. An experienced physical therapist can read your body like a book

Our physical therapists knows more about you than he or she lets on. Your body tells a story about your lifestyle, eating, drinking and exercise habits, the position you like to sit in, and so on. The best strategy for your health is to be forthcoming when it comes to your life and your health. The more you say about yourself, the more your physical therapist can help you.

10. Your physical therapist is not a personal trainer.