Highland Physical Therapy

Physical Therapy: Common Misconceptions Debunked

Physical therapy has always been shrouded in mystery, and the truth is many people don’t really know what it is. Some think that physical therapists only stretch muscles, or rehabilitate athletes. Others feel as though physical therapy is an intense massage, or even just a way to avoid being stiff after a workout. As a physical therapist with many years of experience, I can honestly say that, despite all these conflicting ideas about physical therapy, one thing remains constant: most people believe we heal pain. And yes – we do heal pain, but what most people don’t understand is that physical therapy is NOT only about healing pain… it is about SO much more than that. This may sound controversial, but keep reading.
​Most patients come to my clinic wanting nothing more than for the pain to be gone. And that’s something we can all understand – pain is absolutely terrible. But the most common misconception about physical therapy is that ALL physical therapists do is take away the patient’s pain. That just isn’t true.Let me explain. If all a patient really wanted was for his lower back pain to be gone, or for her knee pain to disappear, then he/she would simply take a painkiller. And in my experience, many of the patients visiting my clinic have ALREADY done that. And the pain is STILL there when they first come to see us. So, getting rid of the pain isn’t the only issue the patient is facing. If pain relief is the only thing that’s required, the painkillers or the injection would have worked… but they haven’t.

The unfortunate truth is, many people see pain as the problem, not the symptom. And it is this precise disconnect that defines what a physical therapist does: physical therapy finds the CAUSE, so as to heal the problem, thereby getting rid of the pain. The intensive physical therapy undergone by an athlete to rehabilitate his leg is NOT only so that he will not be in pain, but so that the root cause of the problem is healed, thereby promoting maintained health. Similar is true for the mother suffering from lower back pain: her physical therapy doesn’t start by healing the pain, but rather tackles the root cause in order to eradicate pain permanently. So, in other words, though physical therapists love to get rid of pain, we do so in a way that treats pain as the cause, not the problem. Our aim is to provide lasting health, not temporary comfort.

That having been said, physical therapists therefore do not participate in pain management. That’s right. Physical therapy is about removing pain completely, not just managing it. That’s why seeing a physical therapist is hands-on, thorough, and oftentimes for the duration of a couple of sessions. I see the same thing happening in my clinic all too often, that is, after a session or two with a physical therapist the patients feels great – his/her pain has dissipated, and life is back to normal. The problem is, he/she then stops coming to physical before completing the recommended number of sessions, and the pain returns.

​It is this common scenario, too, which casts physical therapy under a cloud of misunderstanding. As we do not deal with the management of pain so much as the HEALING of the problem, patients often assume that if their pain is gone there is no need for further treatment. The truth is, physical therapy isn’t a painkiller – and thank goodness for that. Though a session or two might ease the pain, it’s imperative to continue seeing a physical therapist for the suggested duration of your treatment in order to attain PERMANENT health and a pain free life. Physical therapy is the most effective way of healing the CAUSE, and the happy truth is that, along the way, the pain will dissipate.

​So, based on the above, here are some things that physical therapists actually do:

  • We make sure that we treat the root cause of the problem, rather than the symptom of the problem.
  • By treating the root cause, we get rid of pain in a way that is sustainable and healthy.
  • We continue treatment UNTIL THE PROBLEM IS SOLVED, even if that means the patient no longer feels discomfort a few sessions into the treatment. We love to help people, and we do not want to see our patients experience the same pain later on.
  • We tailor-make a plan to suit you: we give you stretches, advice, fitness routine, and so much more – all this so that you are capable of MAINTAINING a pain free life.
  • We give you the best possible chance of achieving a sustained, permanent pain free life.
  • We keep you  away from the painkillers: we treat the ROOT CAUSE, not the symptom.
  • We do not treat pain, but rather ensure that the easing of pain is a byproduct of treating the root cause of the problem.
​Physical therapy is, of course, useful for eradicating pain. But, the truth is, a common misconception lies is precisely HOW we do that. We do not offer temporary solutions to a permanent problem, rather we tackle the root cause of the problem so as to heal the patiently effectively.So, there you have it: the most common misconception about physical therapy, namely, that physical therapist only treat pain. We do so much more than that, and with the proper, hands-on, unique treatment that physical therapy provides, a patient who does the required sessions, and commits to the therapy prescription, will ultimately maintain a pain free, active life. Stop the painkillers, stop the injections, and stop multiple visits to the physician: physical therapy is by far the most effective way to achieve and MAINTAIN a pain free life, healthily.

18 thoughts on “Physical Therapy: Common Misconceptions Debunked”

  1. It’s awesome that physical therapists treat the root cause of the problem instead of just the symptoms. My sister has been telling me about some issues that she’s been having with walking recently. I’ll share this information with her so that she can look into her options for physical therapists who can help her with this.

  2. I agree that you should find the root cause of your problem instead of treating symptoms. I need to get a physiotherapist to relieve back pain for me. I haven’t had a good back ever since my car accident last month.

  3. I’ve been having a lot of issues with muscular aches and pains. It makes sense that I would want to get physical therapy to help me out with this. It would be nice to finally have some relief from my pain.

  4. It really stood out to me when you mentioned that physical therapy is about completely removing pain. I would like to run a marathon this summer, but my knee has been causing me a lot of pain this past month. I would like to fix my knee pain before the marathon, so it seems like I am going to need to find a physical therapist.

    • I’m glad that this article was helpful to you! I have run 2 marathons and other races of various distances. If you live near Pocatello, I’m sure I can help you reach your marathon goal.

  5. Physical therapy is a great way to stay fit, but it’s not for everyone. Many people are confused about what physical therapy actually is and whom it can help. The truth is, physical therapy isn’t just effective for those who have suffered an injury such as a strain or sprain; it is also beneficial to the elderly and even endurance athletes.

  6. I like that you said that it is necessary to deal with the management of pain to resolve the problem. My best friend suffered an ankle injury last month, and he asked me yesterday if I had any idea what could be the best treatment to do as it is not fully healing. I appreciate this instructive article, and I’ll be sure to tell him that consulting a trusted physiotherapist can provide proper treatment and rehab process for his injury.

  7. Thanks for the info about physical therapy. My friend is concerned about his physical health. I’ll tell him to consider physical therapy for his condition.

  8. I was captivated when you mentioned that physical therapy is about the complete removal of pain. My sister has been complaining about her back pain for days now. I should advise her to see a physical therapist for proper treatment.

  9. I greatly appreciate your explanation of how physical therapy is about removing pain completely. Taking painkillers may work for a few hours, but my body ends up aching the very next day and then I’m back to square one. Since I want this to go away for real, I’ll ask for some help from a physical therapy clinic as soon as I find one.

  10. I love that you talked about how physical therapy treatment is not about managing the pain, but it would be able to remove it completely. Hopefully, I will be able to afford the treatments for myself because I need help with my right knee. It is uncomfortable whenever it gets too cold, and there might be underlying issues that I hope to address with the help of professionals.

  11. I have an uncle who’s dealt with chronic joint pain for a few years, and he wants to try alternative treatments to see if they’d help him. I’m glad you explained that physical therapy removes pain completely after the required sessions, so I think this could be a good option for my uncle. I appreciate your advice on physical therapy and the importance of keeping your treatment to fully recover.

  12. I love how you talk about how the focus of physical therapy is to get rid of the pain from the problem area. My partner has been struggling with their shoulders since they started their new job and they aren’t sure how to fix the pain. We’ve been looking into going into physical therapy to help them work out the muscles and joints and hopefully help fix the problem.

  13. A combination of tantric massage, mindfulness, and bodywork, this holistic therapy works with the whole body, mind and sexual energy in a powerful way. Get support with sexual dysfunction issues such as erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation and vaginismus, relax and open up to more pleasure. Learn to re-direct sexual energy through the body. Heal from sexual and other traumas.

  14. It got me when you said that physical therapy will actually remove pain and not just manage it. I should definitely see one to help me with my headache and eye pain because there must be something affecting those parts of my body. And I want those professionals to target them correctly in order to relieve me from the discomfort I feel every time they get triggered.

Comments are closed.