7 Common Physical Therapy Myths
Physical therapy transforms the way that people live their lives every day. Because physical therapists are experts in how the body moves, their work restores and improves mobility, reduces pain, and creates the conditions for a more active life. However, common myths about physical therapy throw cold water on the idea of scheduling an appointment among many patients.
Related Reading: How to Become a Physical Therapist Assistant in 7 Steps
Here is the truth about 7 physical therapy myths.
If you prefer to watch instead of read, then this video overview explains the 7 physical therapy myths that we write about in this post. And scroll down for an awesome infographic covering these PT myths!
1. Myth: Referrals from a physician are necessary to get an appointment with a physical therapist.
It is 2016. You should know how to use the internet by now. And no, you don’t need a special pass to book an appointment.
Fact: If you believe this one, then you are not alone. According to the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), 70% of the people they polled believe that this is true. Evaluations by a physical therapist are allowed without a referral or prescription from a doctor in all states as well as the District of Columbia (DC). Some forms of treatment without orders from a physician are also permissible. However, there are restrictions about the types of treatment that a patient can receive in physical therapy in some states. To see if your state has any restrictions, see the direct access summary chart published by the APTA.
2. Myth: Expect to experience pain during physical therapy.
Ok, so maybe certain stretches and exercises aren’t the most comfortable, but ultimately they are designed to reduce and prevent pain. And they work.
Fact: The goal of physical therapy is to reduce the level of pain that patients experience. This includes chronic pain as well as short-term pain due to recent injuries. Physical therapists work with you to understand your pain threshold. They design a therapy with that in mind to help restore your ability to move and to gain more functionality. A recent survey reported that 71% of respondents who had never been seen by a physical therapist believe that they would experience pain during a visit. However, patients who received physical therapy are much less likely to believe that this is true.
3. Myth: The only time physical therapy is necessary is after an accident or injury.
Injury and disease prevention, people. C’mon!
Fact: Physical therapy entails much more than dealing with damaged muscles after a surgery or an injury. During an evaluation, these trained health care workers uncover potential problems that may develop into a major disability. Some of these conditions include lower back pain, frozen shoulders, frequent headaches, and carpal tunnel syndrome. PT is also used as a preventative measure to avoid injuries and diseases. Many athletes practice therapy as part of their training routines to avoid injuries and other health issues.
4. Myth: Physical therapy can be done by every type of health care worker.
Shaking my head. I hope you are too.
Fact: While 42% of the population understands that licensed physical therapists and physical therapist assistants are the only health care professionals who can perform physical therapy, 37% think that other types of health care workers can do so as well. This confusion may arise because licensed physical therapists and licensed physical therapist assistants frequently have additional certifications, including for example women’s health, sports, orthopedics, or neurology.
5. Myth: Health care insurance does not cover physical therapy.
Even if your insurance doesn’t cover PT, it may be cheaper to pay for PT out of pocket and avoid costly surgeries that will require paying a high deductible.
Fact: The vast majority of health care policies do cover evaluations and treatments by a licensed physical therapist. There are solid economic reasons for this. People who work with a physical therapist are often able to avoid costly surgery and other treatments for their condition. When problems are addressed by a therapist at an early stage, they often do not become chronic which means more savings for the insurance company.
6. Myth: The only treatment option is surgery.
This is an old school western medicine way of thinking. Billions of people across the world do not have surgery as an option, yet they find healing through PT.
Fact: Multiple studies have proven that physical therapy can be just as good as surgery for a wide variety of conditions. These include osteoarthritis in the knees, meniscal and rotator cuff tears, and degenerative disk disease. 79% of patients who chose physical therapy instead of surgery believe that this is true.
7. Myth: People can do their own physical therapy.
I know, I know. We (PTs and PTAs) are all shaking our heads together right now.
Fact: While you need to follow through and do the exercises recommended by your physical therapist, it is important to be guided by an expert in physical therapy. Due to their extensive education, experience in a medical setting, and constant review of research materials, physical therapists are uniquely qualified to create a care plan unique to you and your condition.
The Truth About Physical Therapy Myths
There you have it, the truth about physical therapy myths. These myths are dangerous because they greatly impact your health, it is important to know the truth when it comes to physical therapy so that you can make good decisions and take advantage of your best options for healing.
This infographic was originally published by MoveForwardPT, which is part of the APTA. It does a good job bridging the gap between myth and truth for consumers who don’t know enough about physical therapy to determine the truth themselves. Thank you, APTA and MoveForwardPT for this awesome infographic!
Bonus PT Myth
We’ve heard another myth about Physical Therapy Jobs. We’ve heard PTs and PTAs saying they can’t find their dream PT Job. We’ve heard people get frustrated about this and say things like “Maybe PT isn’t for me afterall” or “I guess my dream PT job doesn’t exist”. Well fortunately we are here to debunk this terrible myth!
Just last week we updated our PTA Jobs Search Tool, so get started applying to jobs today or bookmark it to find your next dream PT Job 🙂
Have you heard any other myths about physical therapy? If so tell us in the comments below! 🙂
Kimberly Rammel says
As a licensed Physical Therapist Assistant I was surprised to read that only only licensed Physical Therapists can perform PT . May need to clarify that statement .
Good catch, I updated that section of the post. Have a good night 🙂
John Mahoney says
Thank you for talking about the importance of making sure you follow your physician’s advice in order to get the most out of your therapy. It makes sense that making sure you understand what to do can help you get the results you need. It is important to remember that making sure you choose someone who is licensed can help assure your money and time is well invested.