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When You Need Physical Therapy Vs. Rest

When You Need Physical Therapy Vs. Rest

After a painful injury or a surgery that limits your movement, you may be inclined to just rest and let it heal. But how do you know when you need physical therapy vs. rest?

Given that the body is a complex structure, there’s no simple answer. It depends on a number of factors. But it’s safe to say in cases where rest is not bringing relief and/or the injury is recurring, seeking out physical therapy is a logical response.

When done under the watchful eye of a highly qualified physical therapist, there are so many ways that movement can bring healing. Even when it seems contraindicative. 

What Happens In Physical Therapy?

Physical therapists are trained to use a variety of treatments that help their clients gain strength and regain mobility. They do this with a focus on specific exercises and movements.

Depending on the injury or area that needs healing, a physical therapist creates a custom-made strength training program utilizing machines, weights, elastic bands, and the client’s own body. He or she also works one-on-one with the client to manipulate the specific area that’s causing pain.

With a keen and thorough understanding of biomechanics, physical therapists teach clients how to use their muscles and joints correctly to reduce pain and avoid injury through this strength training.

For instance, if a client is injured playing sports or because of repetitive motions, the physical therapist observes how the client naturally moves and makes recommendations to bring the body into better alignment while in motion. Once the client has a grasp of a more efficient way to move, he or she can apply this to activities of daily living to prevent re-injury. 

In addition, a physical therapist has the expertise to determine how much weight the client should bear and the proper way to do it. Then he or she can increase the weight gradually and safely as the client’s strength increases. Furthermore, they have an awareness of pain that benefits from movement, and pain that does not.  

Physical Therapy Vs. Rest for Managing Pain

For those who suffer with pain, the natural inclination would be to rest. After all, if it hurts to move, then be still. But rest may not be helping at all. Again, this depends on the situation. Yes, if you have several broken ribs, then rest is exactly what the doctor ordered.

However, there are many instances where restoring movement and strength is key for healing after an injury or surgery. Even if it hurts. It turns out that injured tissue responds better to immediate mobilization and loading rather than stillness. The key, however, is graded and structured progression with new movements over time based on how the body is healing. 

That’s why so many doctors are now recommending physical therapy as part of a bigger healing plan that includes rest and possibly medication. Rehabbing through physical therapy involves both passive and active strategies to restore mobility and functionality. 

A physical therapist may also use heat and ice therapies to increase circulation and lessen inflammation. Manual massage serves the same purpose. In situations where they need to get deeper into the tissue, they may utilize electrical stimulation to fatigue the muscle so it relaxes. 

All of these techniques help to speed recovery.

Movement After Joint-Replacement Surgery

In the early days of joint replacements, bed rest at the hospital was recommended. The idea was that staying still kept any potential blood clots from breaking loose and moving to the lungs where they could cause a pulmonary embolism. The problem was, bed rest caused the replaced joint to stiffen – resulting in pain and swelling and slower healing.

These days, PT typically starts 24 hours after replacement surgeries. The physical therapist shows the patient how to SAFELY exercise the joint to speed recovery.  

As for the blood clots? Studies show that patients who are on foot with a clot are no more likely to develop a pulmonary embolism than people who are at rest. Plus, clot-preventing medicines go the distance to prevent PEs. 

As such, physical therapy can start just as soon as the clot-preventing medicine starts working. 

Wondering If You May Need Physical Therapy?

In the battle of physical therapy vs. rest, it’s not always easy to know which you need. But when it comes to an injury, PT can be invaluable in that it helps you move your body in a way that increases circulation to the injury and strengthen surrounding muscles, tendons, and ligaments. 

Furthermore, the result of too much rest could be permanent diminished mobility. So if you’re dealing with pain and would like to find out whether PT could help, contact us today. 

We’ll give you an honest evaluation to help point you in the right direction. 

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