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Physical therapy (PT) can be described most simply as a noninvasive way to improve a person’s bodily activities or movement. Since its first use in the mid-nineteenth century, PT has become an integral part of healthcare services. Even so, there are numerous myths about PT that can prevent people from experiencing the many benefits it offers for optimal well-being and daily living. They include:

1. Physical therapy is only for injuries.

There are myriad reasons to seek physical therapy beyond injury. Yes, PT plays a key role in recovering from injuries that cause acute pain such as a rotator cuff tear, a knee sprain, or a dislocated shoulder. The same is true for chronic injuries such as tendinitis or tennis elbow that result from repetitive activities. In addition, stroke victims, or those with traumatic brain injury, who experience paralysis or impaired motor skills, can find relief, and improved or restored function through a program of PT. People are often surprised to learn that other physical conditions, including dizziness and vertigo, fibromyalgia, scoliosis, and TMJ, to name a few, can be treated successfully with PT.

But PT isn’t just about rehabilitation from injuries, disease, or deformity. It can also be used to improve function and performance in virtually any activity, and, perhaps most importantly, help prevent injury. Whether you’re a professional athlete, a gym rat, a weekend warrior, or an average Joe, PT may be just what you need to up your game -- and enjoy it more -- while remaining pain and injury-free.

2. Physical therapists aren’t doctors.

Those who aspire to be a physical therapist in the United States today are required to earn a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree (DPT) and pass a state licensure examination. That wasn’t always the case. Until the end of the 1990s, a bachelor’s degree was sufficient to join the profession. Regulations now set forth by the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) state that effective 2020, for new practitioners entering the profession, a DPT is required.The DPT degree provides assurance to patients that their physical therapist has been through rigorous training and has deep knowledge about the musculoskeletal system, the neuromuscular system (i.e., the relationship between muscles, nerves, and the brain) and the intricacies of healthy body function and movement.

3. Physical therapists just take you through a series of exercises.

Exercise is one of the tools that physical therapists use to treat injury, disease, or deformity. However, other modalities such as manipulation to vertebrae, peripheral joints and myofascia (i.e., the connective tissue system) as well as heat, and cryotherapy (ice) can be useful, complementary components of a treatment program. Examples include muscle stretching, muscle energy techniques such as passive movements of the affected body part, or having the patient move the body part against the therapist’s resistance to improve muscle activation and timing. There are also various soft tissue techniques that can be used to improve the mobility and function of tissue and muscles. At WAV PT, we have found that the use of manual therapy along with therapeutic exercise -- specifically The Gyrotonic Method of movement and exercise -- provides excellent results in treating most of the musculoskeletal dysfunctions that are present within the general population.

4. My doctor must refer me to a physical therapist.

The decision to see a physical therapist does not require a referral by a physician. This is true in all 50 states in the U.S. and the District of Columbia. Many major health insurance companies provide coverage when patients seek physical therapy directly. However, it’s best to check with your health care policy holder first as some do require a medical doctor’s referral before treatment. In addition, some plans have rules that may limit certain treatments or how long a treatment can be administered without a physician’s order.

WAV PT is currently “in network” with Medicare with PPO supplemental plan, Blue Shield of California PPO and Cigna PPO, and “out-of-network” for all other insurance companies. If your carrier is in network, then we simply bill them directly for treatment. If you are out-of-network, we supply you with a “Super Bill” containing all the information you need to submit a claim to your insurance company for reimbursement.

5. I already see a chiropractor, so I don’t need physical therapy.

Physical therapists and chiropractors often treat similar conditions and areas of the body. However, the methods and approaches physical therapists and chiropractors use for reaching a positive outcome for patients are quite different.

Chiropractic care emphasizes diagnosis and treatment of mechanical disorders of the spine and joints, using spinal manipulation in lieu of medication or invasive procedures. Physical therapists, who look at how the whole body moves and functions, provide hands-on, Manual Therapy, which ranges from soft tissue work to the adjustments or manipulations that a chiropractor might perform. In addition, physical therapists prescribe exercises and offer neuromuscular education to encourage independent healing and give patients the ability to manage symptoms themselves.

While many people experience pain relief from chiropractic care, it’s not uncommon for symptoms to return weeks, months, or years after their treatments have ended. A complete physical therapy program that includes hands-on manual therapy and an individualized exercise program can help address the underlying condition, with a goal of healing and correcting dysfunction to prevent reoccurrence.

In short, there are lots of compelling reasons to use PT, whether for rehabilitation, injury prevention, or to help maintain, learn, or improve skills and functioning for daily living. To find out how PT can help you reach your goals in the South Orange County area, call or text WAV Wellness and Vitality at (949) 373-5054 or send an email to to schedule a free 20-minute consultation today.


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