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Neck pain may be caused by muscle or ligament strain, arthritis, or a pinched nerve. It typically improves with conservative therapy. Your doctor will perform a physical exam and take your complete medical history. Your provider may order a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan of your cervical spine to look for herniated disks, signs of spinal stenosis and masses such as cysts or tumors.
A good neck pain therapy program starts with a careful medical exam. You may need a series of diagnostic tests, such as an X-ray, CT scan or an MRI to identify the type and cause of your neck problems. Your health care provider will ask you about your symptoms, past injuries and your work and exercise routines. You will also have a physical exam of your neck and shoulders. Then, your health care provider will order lab tests to look for causes of neck pain other than musculoskeletal injuries, such as infections, rheumatological conditions or cancers.
Most neck problems are not life threatening and will resolve with time and conservative treatment. Medication, including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to ease inflammation and muscle relaxants to reduce stiffness, can help control pain and swelling. If your pain persists, your doctor may recommend steroid injections near the painful area to relieve pain and swelling.
Neck exercises can strengthen and stretch the muscles in your neck, improving your range of motion and flexibility. Your therapist can show you the right moves and suggest a stretching schedule to help prevent the problem from recurring. Your health care provider may also prescribe heat or ice to relieve pain and stiffness.
Many neck issues are caused by poor posture and injury, arthritis or normal aging. Treatments provided by a physiotherapist, osteopath or chiropractor can help to restore the alignment of your spine and loosen tight muscles that are contributing to your neck pain.
A click or grating noise when you move your neck can indicate that the nerves in your neck are being pinched. This is called crepitus and it is common. It’s usually not a serious symptom, but it can be alarming.
If you have severe neck pain, it is important to talk to your health care provider as soon as possible. This is especially true if you have muscle weakness, a disc herniation or neck pain that gets worse over time. You may need surgery if other treatments don’t relieve your neck pain or if you have neck pain that is accompanied by problems with your balance and coordination, changes in your bowel or bladder function or numbness or tingling in your arms or legs.
The neck supports the head and is made up of 7 bones (vertebrae) stacked one on top of each other, connected by 2 facet joints and a disc. It is surrounded by muscle that provides movement and support. Tension in these muscles and other problems of the joints or spine can cause neck pain. Massage can help relax tight neck muscles and improve flexibility. Some people also find it reduces stress and anxiety. In addition, it can improve circulation and blood flow to the tissues of the neck, which can decrease swelling, and improve range of motion.
A variety of techniques are used in massage, including kneading, friction, pressure and vibration. People can get massaged in a clinic or at home, although it is important to find a practitioner who has been trained.
Massage might not be a good treatment for people with certain health conditions, such as heart disease or diabetes. It is also not a good choice if you have open wounds, edema or pressure sores. Pressure sores are areas of swelling that develop in the skin and surrounding tissues. They may be a result of immobility or surgery.
Alternative therapies, such as acupuncture and chiropractic, might also ease neck pain. Acupuncture involves the insertion of thin, sterilized needles at specific points on the body. It is considered safe when performed by a certified practitioner with sterile needles.
TENS, or transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, uses electrodes placed on the skin to deliver low-level electric impulses that might relieve neck pain. It might also reduce inflammation and stiffness. It is usually done in a doctor’s office or physical therapy clinic, and the treatments might last up to half an hour.
Neck pain and stiffness are common problems. Most often they are not serious and can be treated with over-the-counter painkillers, physiotherapy or chiropractic care.
The neck, or cervical spine, consists of seven square-shaped bones (cervical vertebrae) that are stacked on top of each other and connected by ligaments. The bones protect the spinal cord, which runs from the brain down through the throat. The bones are separated by intervertebral discs that allow the neck to move and act as shock absorbers. A herniated disk, bone spur or neck strain can cause neck pain. Aging, trauma, poor posture, repetitive activities and heavy body weight can also lead to neck problems.
Most neck pain is caused by muscle tightness and joint inflammation. If the symptoms do not go away, your health care provider may decide to perform a physical exam and some lab tests to see if there are other causes of the problem, such as a blood test or x-rays.
During the physical examination, your doctor will observe how you move your neck and head, check your posture and touch your neck to feel for areas of tension or tenderness. Your doctor may also do strength, sensation and reflex testing. They will most likely recommend a program of neck exercises, including isometric and range-of-motion exercises that gradually tighten and stretch the neck muscles. They may also use treatments, such as heat or massage, to ease the pain and stiffness.
In some cases, chiropractors or physical therapists will use a technique called cervical traction. This treatment gently extends the neck, opening the spaces between the cervical vertebrae and alleviating pressure on the discs. This is not recommended for patients with a broken bone, tumor, uncontrolled seizures or severe osteoporosis, as the traction can worsen these conditions. A soft neck collar is often used to support the neck and can help relieve pain by taking pressure off the neck. However, the collar should not be worn for more than three hours at a time or for more than two weeks, as it can weaken neck muscles and delay recovery.
Cervical traction is a treatment that involves lightly pulling on the neck to create space between the bones in the neck (the cervical vertebrae). This stretching technique helps reduce pressure on the spinal discs, joints and muscles of the neck. It’s a common neck pain therapy that can be done by your physical therapist, or at home using a cervical traction device.
Neck traction is generally considered an effective neck pain therapy because it removes compression from the spine and relieves tension in the neck muscles. It also improves the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the spinal joints, helping them heal faster.
It is often used in conjunction with other neck pain therapies, such as chiropractic and massage. It is also a popular treatment for herniated discs, which can be caused by degeneration or injury to the spine.
This is because traction helps to open up the space in the spinal column, which can relieve nerve pressure caused by the herniated discs. It also stretches the neck muscles and increases the flexibility of the spine. It is recommended to use a light traction force for neck problems such as degeneration and a herniated disc, while heavier traction forces may be better suited for other conditions, such as whiplash.
The traction can be applied in both the seated and supine positions, depending on the patient’s preference. It is usually preferred to apply a brief, intermittent sequence of rest and traction rather than continuous traction. This is because it allows the spinal nerves and bones to relax between traction cycles.
Two trials of moderate quality (Cheung Lau 2011; NNTB 5, Gonzalez-Iglesias 2009 JO) showed that cervical manipulation was more effective than the use of oral medications for acute and subacute neck pain without radicular symptoms at immediate follow up. Another trial of low quality (NNTB 1, Gemmell 2010) showed that a specialized mobilisation technique was more effective than an Activator instrument for improving pain, function and mobility at short-term follow up. However, the number of participants in this trial was too small to draw any conclusions on whether the difference was clinically significant.
A good physical therapist will respect the wishes of their patients. While a therapist may recommend certain treatments, it is ultimately up to the patient whether or not to follow their advice.
During treatment, a PT should have a strong bedside manner and be available to answer any questions. Saunders Therapy Centers, Inc also takes the time to fully understand each patient’s situation and lifestyle to develop a personalized treatment plan.
Physical Therapy Benefits
Physical therapy is an important part of treating many conditions. It can help patients manage pain, improve balance and flexibility, and return to daily activities. It can even reduce the need for surgery or chronic medications.
Whether you have an injury from sports or a chronic condition like arthritis or fibromyalgia, physical therapy can help. The goal is to reduce pain or remove it completely, so you can move more freely and return to the activities you love.
For example, if you have an injured shoulder from playing tennis or from a back injury from work, a PT can help you develop the proper range of motion in the joint and prevent further damage by guiding you through exercises and other treatments, such as manipulations of soft tissue and joints or electrical stimulation. In addition to reducing pain, physical therapy can also increase your energy levels and help you get back to the activities you enjoy most.
People of all ages can benefit from physical therapy. It helps with conditions that affect muscles and bones, such as back pain or balance problems caused by nerve or heart issues. It can also help infants with developmental disabilities and adults who have had traumatic injuries or surgeries such as severe burns or spinal cord injuries.
Some specialized physical therapists can treat conditions that affect women, such as urinary incontinence, pelvic or vaginal pain, and the recovery from breast cancer surgery or lymphedema (accumulation of fluid in the soft tissues). Some focus on vestibular therapy to address balance problems caused by inner ear disorders.
A major benefit of physical therapy is its role in reducing the need for prescription drugs, such as opioids. Studies have shown that when patients receive early physical therapy, it can significantly decrease the amount of opioids they take. This can help reduce dependence on opioids and other drugs and provide better long-term health outcomes. In addition, a PT can teach patients how to manage their pain with other methods, such as ice, heat or electrical stimulation.
Physical Therapy Treatments
Physical therapy, or PT, is a branch of rehabilitative medicine that helps patients who have abnormal physical functions. It can treat a wide range of conditions and injuries, from children born with musculoskeletal birth defects to elderly people who suffer from strokes. Physical therapists, also called physiotherapists, undergo specific graduate training before they become licensed. They typically work in rehab centers, hospitals, sports and fitness centers, schools and offices.
A primary goal of physical therapy is to improve a patient’s range of motion and mobility. PT treatments include passive therapies like massage and joint mobilization as well as active exercises that a patient can perform at home or in a clinic.
Passive therapies like massage are used to relax muscles, which can ease pain and stiffness. Massage techniques like effleurage and petrissage help relieve knots and tightness. Another common treatment is heat and cold, which can reduce inflammation and improve circulation. A PT will apply hot and/or cold packs on or under the skin to reduce swelling, stiffness, and pain, as well as increase flexibility.
PTs will also prescribe exercises to do at home to prevent or slow the progression of an injury, such as strengthening exercises. Aerobic exercises, such as walking on a treadmill, are often included in the program because they can help lower blood pressure and control diabetes. The therapist may also recommend balance training for aging adults to help them avoid falls.
Other PT treatments include myofascial release therapy and electrotherapeutic techniques. Myofascial release involves a manual therapy technique where the therapist feels around the body for stiff and tight areas known as trigger points. These are painful areas that can restrict movement and lead to additional muscle tightness. The therapist can then manually manipulate these areas to restore the pliability of the fascia and ease pain.
PTs can also use electrical stimulation to decrease pain, and muscle spasms and promote tissue healing. They can also use ultrasound to deliver deep heating, reducing swelling and tenderness of an injured area. These machines emit a sound wave that penetrates the muscles and tissues and can also be used to deliver medications subcutaneously.
Physical Therapy Costs
Whether or not you have insurance, the cost of physical therapy will vary based on your specific needs. However, you can lower your out-of-pocket expenses by paying for your PT sessions in cash. Some clinics offer discounts to patients who pay for their treatment upfront. The amount you save will depend on how much time your therapist spends with you, the type of treatments you receive (such as electrical stimulation or therapeutic exercise), and the coding classification guidelines established.
For patients with health insurance, the average session costs between $20 and $70 per visit. However, keep in mind that your insurance provider will require a minimum annual deductible before coverage kicks in. This deductible can range from $250 to $1250 or more, depending on your insurance plan.
You will also likely have a copay of $10 to $50 for each visit, which again depends on your insurance plan. Additionally, if you are seeing an in-network provider, your insurance may only cover a certain number of visits before your out-of-pocket maximum is reached.
If you have no insurance or a high deductible, it’s worth considering the cost of physical therapy compared to other medical treatments such as medication, imaging scans, and surgery. Depending on your condition, a few weeks of physical therapy could result in lasting pain relief without the cost and hassle of other medical treatments. Furthermore, most people who go through physical therapy find that their injuries have less of an impact on their quality of life, resulting in long-term savings in the form of decreased medication use and reduced need for medical treatments such as surgery. If you’re unsure about how much your treatment will cost, schedule a free consultation with an expert physical therapist to learn more about your injury and how to reduce costs. They will help you determine a personalized care plan that fits within your budget. Contact us today to request an appointment. We look forward to helping you get back on your feet!
Physical Therapy Insurance
You don’t need to have health insurance to see a physical therapist. Some clinics offer care without insurance, and you may pay less per session by paying cash rather than going through your insurance provider. However, if you do have insurance, your physical therapy costs will likely be lower if you visit in-network providers and pay copays or coinsurance.
The best way to find out what you will need to pay for physical therapy is to get a quote from a therapist who accepts your insurer’s network. Then, ask about the deductible and copayment amount for each session. Also, find out if your insurance has an out-of-pocket maximum or a coinsurance rate that’s higher than 20%.
It’s worth noting that some physical therapists choose to be out-of-network with insurers because they don’t think the insurance companies offer fair treatment. They can still accept your insurance, but they will often have higher fees than in-network therapists. Some patients choose to work with out-of-network therapists because they believe the treatment will be more effective.
As a physical therapist, it’s your job to help your patients recover from injuries or illnesses. But the treatments you offer can be complicated, and mistakes can occur. That’s why you need to have medical malpractice insurance. If you do, the insurer will cover your legal fees and any compensation you need to pay if a patient sues over an injury or illness that wasn’t caused by your actions.
If you’re a physical therapist, you can choose to buy a professional liability insurance policy on your own or get a group plan through your employer. If you’re unsure what option is best for you, a legal advisor or an insurance expert can give you advice.