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7 Conditions You Didn’t Know Physical Therapists Treat

What Can Physical Therapy Do For You?
 Jun 29, 2018  15 min read

While most people know that physical therapy is often recommended after injuries, accidents, or surgery, did you know a physical therapist can help with other conditions too? Physical therapists treat a wide range of issues related to the musculoskeletal system. If it causes you pain, keeps you from moving properly, or in some way causes dysfunction or limitations to your physical ability, odds are a physical therapist can help! While the list is nearly endless, here are 7 common conditions that a physical therapist can help you with:

1. Concussions

What are concussions?

A concussion is a brain injury. Commonly, they are caused in situations involving sports or recreational activities but transportation accidents, work injuries, or falls can also be culprits. Circumstances like these precipitate the chance of an unexpected and jolting blow to the head. After such an occurrence brain function can become abnormal. The brain is the most complex organ in the body, but it is made of soft tissue and needs to be protected by the skull. If the brain is forced to sustain an injury, it operates as though confused, leading to symptoms like blurry vision, slurred speech, and clumsy mobility.

Symptoms:

  • Dazed state, confusion
  • Clumsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Light and/or noise sensitivity
  • Nausea
  • Slurred speech
  • Blurry vision
  • Ringing in ears
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Fatigue
  • Memory loss
  • Seizures

A grade 1 concussion does not see a loss of consciousness or symptoms lasting over 15 minutes; a grade 2 concussion again does not describe unconsciousness but symptoms exceed 15 minutes; a grade 3 concussion, the most severe, is attributed when consciousness is lost. Each grade warrants a visit to a medical professional.

How can a physical therapist help?

When you see a physical therapist for your concussion, come prepared to describe your condition with as much possible detail as you can recall. They will assess how you are doing from a neurological, an orthopedic, and a cardiovascular standpoint to then create a treatment routine ideal for you. Your therapist’s main concerns will be:

  • Rest and recovery
    • Any kind of activity, whether it be sports and recreation or daily tasks, like school and work, or even just the use of electronics, will be limited by your therapist until they deem it safe to return for your health and benefit.
  • Restoring strength and endurance
    • The period of rest a therapist prescribes to a patient can result in a decrease physical fitness, especially if the injury was sustained because the patient is an athlete. However, when the time is right and physical activity to the extent of exercise no longer poses a risk for a concussive patient, a physical therapist will begin the shift to a therapeutic exercise program and monitor progress.
  • Improving balance to stop dizziness
    • Vestibular therapy is what will help you here. One of our qualified Compleat Rehab therapists will guide you through how to reacquaint your body with the inner ear, which is instrumental in keeping balance and preventing dizziness.
  • Alleviating headaches
    • There are many solutions you and your therapist could choose from to combat headaches, such as strength/motion exercises, stretching, eye exercises, and massages or electrical stimulation.
  • Return to normal or desired activities
    • The key here is to return to normalcy gradually. Your physical therapist will be able to help prevent you from piling too much on to your plate too soon, as an overload could foster the return of symptoms and get in the way of your brain’s healing process.

2. Herniated discs

What are herniated discs?

Picture a jelly donut getting stepped on and the filling being forced out. In much the same way, the vertebrae along your spine have soft, spongy material (intervertebral discs) in between them to provide cushioning, but this cartilaginous material can be torn whereupon the gelatin-like center leaks out. Herniated discs can happen at any place along your spine, and characteristically, the pain, numbness, and weakness associated is caused by the herniated disc pressing against a nerve. Sudden trauma, like a mishap while lifting or partaking in a weight-bearing exercise, or long-term pressure, like obesity, smoking, and poor posture, are risk factors.

Symptoms:

  • Pain and/or numbness in the back, neck, arms, and legs
  • Worse pain in the morning
  • Worse pain when coughing, sneezing, sitting, or reaching
  • Difficulty rotating and/or bending your back and neck
  • Trouble getting up from a chair
  • Struggling to stand up straight from a “stuck” or locked position
  • Uneasiness from staying in a prolonged position
  • Development of a limp

It sounds scary, but it’s not uncommon or untreatable (see our article on back pain myths). In general, herniated discs do not require surgery, instead responding best to physical therapy.

How can a physical therapist help?

A Compleat Rehab therapist will assess you based on your answers to questions like “Can you describe the discomfort you feel and point me to where you feel it?”, “What do you think was the event that started your pain?”, “Does pain worsen at certain times of the day or with certain movements?”, and “How has your daily life been impacted by the pain?” Inquiries like these will help shed light on the condition – you often won’t need a doctor’s examination to learn you have a herniated disc and start getting treatment. Physical therapy for a herniated disc will normally take two to eight weeks-time, in which your therapist will work on:

  • Reducing pain
    • Resting the area and applying ice are two of the most surefire ways to reduce pain. Complete inactivity will do more harm than good though. Instead of bed rest, your therapist will show you safe exercises you can do at home – such as brief walks – to stay active.
  • Improving posture
    • Appropriate posture will reduce pressure to the injured area. Your therapist will help you achieve this posture, as well as make recommendations for the kinds of seating that will help improve your posture over time.
  • Reestablishing motion
    • Once a disc has become herniated, affected joints become stiff, and a return to normal movement needs to be worked toward. Physical therapists use manual therapies like massage and manipulations to help loosen the joints, then prescribe exercises you’ll perform in the clinic and at home.
  • Increasing flexibility
    • Your therapist can advise you on which areas to stretch and provide multiple options for how best to stretch them to release tension.
  • Core strengthening
    • A stronger core will serve to benefit your body’s overall strength and agility. The muscles of your back, hips, abdomen, and pelvis will regain coordination.
  • Implementation of proper “body mechanics”
    • One of the most important facets of the healing process is to ensure re-injury does not happen. Learning “body mechanics” from a Compleat Rehab therapist will show you the correct ways to perform potentially risky tasks, like lifting heavy objects, which will help protect your spine.

3. Hip bursitis

What is hip bursitis?

Hip bursitis stems from irritation and inflammation of one or both of your two bursae (fluid-filled sacs that sit beside the hip). Constant friction or stress on the bursa lead to the onset of inflammation. Your bursae act as cushions for nearby muscles and tendons, but in the event that a bursa has become inflamed and swollen, muscles and tendons can no longer smoothly glide over for movement, and this causes pain. You are at risk if you have suffered a direct trauma to the hip, if there are differences in your leg lengths, if you have undergone hip surgery/replacement, if your hip contains bone spurs, or if you have a disease (e.g. arthritis).

Symptoms:

  • Pain, pain, and more pain! All around your hip area, but not limited to times of motion.

How can a physical therapist help?

Seeing a Compleat Rehab therapist for help may entail a process similar to the following. The therapist will determine the root cause of your pain and watch you walk or feel for soreness on your hip, all to help arrive at initial conclusions. Once a regular schedule is in place for attending therapy, the goals of these interactions will probably be similar to the following:

  • Reducing pain and swelling
    • Your therapist will modify daily activity to prevent further affliction. Methods including ice, heat, ultrasound, electrical stimulation, taping, exercise, and massage are among what your therapist could choose best suits you.
  • Improving motion
    • You may see a transition from your therapist helping and guiding your body through motions to you yourself controlling and working on the movement of your hip joint.
  • Improving flexibility
    • If leg or spinal muscles have become tight as a result of your hip strain, your therapist will help you stretch.
  • Improving strength
    • When the time is right, and your hip muscles are ready to take it again, strengthening the hip muscles is a must and can be done with the help of cuff weights, stretch bands, weight-lifting equipment, and cardio-exercise machines.
  • Improving balance
    • The recovery of balance is important after any injury, and to avoid a recurrence of bursitis, learning to carry yourself in good posture while you walk is important.

4. Lymphedema

What is lymphedema?

Capable of being a hereditary condition, the chance is higher that a patient develops lymphedema because of lymph node blockages brought about by infection, cancer, and scar tissue from the surgical removal of your lymph nodes or from radiation therapy. The human body’s lymphatic system is responsible for collecting lymph, or excess fluids and proteins of body tissues, and cyclically returning it to the body’s bloodstream. These substances move through lymphatic vessels and the lymph nodes, acting akin to sewage pipes, so there is a possibility of normal drainage being clogged by lymph buildup.

Symptoms:

  • Swelling in your fingers, hands, arms, shoulders, chest, or legs
  • Odd-feeling skin (tighter, harder, or thicker than usual)
  • Feelings of heaviness in your arms or legs
  • Joint pain and/or difficulty moving your ankles and wrists as freely as normal
  • “Pitting” (when you press on your skin with a finger, the indent takes time to fill back in)
  • Repeated arm or leg infections

How can a physical therapist help?

A therapist at Compleat Rehab may take a few factors into consideration when making clinical deductions, such as a difference in your weight and what you should weigh ideally, measurements of your arms and legs, your functionality in daily life, your surgical/radiation therapy/edema history if any exists, how much time has elapsed since a surgery, and if you have other congestive-type conditions like diabetes. Treatment offered by your therapist can depend upon the stage of your lymphedema.

  • Early stages
    • Swelling is mild, so it is more manageable with help from compression cloths, exercise, and elevating the affected lymphatic limb, which will further lymph flow.
  • Later stages
    • Swelling will be more severe, so “complete decongestive therapy” might be an option. The first step for this process is to manually drain the lymph blockage; it looks and feels like a massage. Compression bandaging follows to reduce swelling.

5. Migraines

What are migraines?

A migraine is a category of headache associated with severe pain. The sensation can be pulsing or throbbing and is usually contained to one side of the head. If left untreated, the constant pounding then leads to a worsened condition of light and sound sensitivity and nausea/vomiting. There is no established regularity for how long migraines will last or for when they will occur, but there are some warning signs you can look out for to counteract early.

Symptoms:

  • Constipation
  • Unexplainable mood changes
  • Food cravings
  • Neck stiffness
  • Thirstiness and, by consequence, increased urination
  • Frequent yawning

How can a physical therapist help?

Simple changes to your posture and lifestyle could be beneficial in alleviating your body’s tendency to develop headaches:

  • Improve neck motion
    • A Compleat Rehab therapist working on increasing movement and stretching your neck muscles will help take some of the pressure away that is probably amassing in your head.
  • Improvements in strength
    • A physical therapist will ensure the stabilizing and strengthening of your upper back and neck muscles to make it easier for you to stand or sit for long durations of time without experiencing discomfort.
  • Improvements in posture
    • Posture, like neck mobility, can be a source for inducing migraines, and with minimal corrections, your therapist can make a big impact.
  • Modifying your school/ work/ home environment
    • Oftentimes, adjustments to small aspects of your workday can be a big help. Sitting in a chair the right fit, positioning your computer mouse a proper distance away, keeping your computer screen level with your eyes, and talking through a headset instead of a regular phone are all easy modifications a Compleat Rehab therapist could recommend.

6. Muscle spasms

What are muscle spasms?

A muscle spasm is an uncontrolled contraction of a muscle in your body. It will happen suddenly with little warning and is uncomfortable but usually does not last long. How hydrated you are, what your activity levels are like, and injury or disease can lead to muscle spasms. If a muscle has been overused, overstretched, or held in one position for too long, it can spasm involuntarily. Diabetes, multiple sclerosis, kidney disease, anemia, thyroid conditions, and spinal cord injuries are diseases that can cause muscle spasms. Most muscles spasms resolve themselves and leave no lasting damage behind; however, if the spasms you have suffered are recurring, long-lasting, and severely painful, perhaps a visit to a Compleat Rehab clinic be of help.

How can a physical therapist help?

A therapist can help you best by preventing conditions that cause your muscles to spasm in the first place. Gentle reminders to stay hydrated, limit muscle overuse, and guidance to stretch before physical activity are all ways a physical therapist could mentor you through how to avert future spasms. Muscle spasms caused by injury will go away once the injury has been treated, which a therapist can also help with. This is to prevent muscle knots from forming. Muscle knots are a more serious form of muscle spasm that are more painful and require more intensive therapy to alleviate.

7. Neck pain

What is neck pain?

Any pain felt in the upper spine area, just below the head, is considered neck pain. It is possible for neck pain to extend its influence up to the head or down to the upper back, shoulder, and arms. Sudden trauma, namely falls, sports injuries, and car accidents are responsible for neck pain but long-term problems of the spine or of poor posture, obesity, smoking, repetitive lifting, and office and computer work can also manifest in the neck area. Pain can be any variation of sharp, stabbing, dull, aching, throbbing, or tingling. The majority of neck pain patients will not require surgery but will respond best to physical therapy.

How can a physical therapist help?

According to the American Physical Therapy Association, seeing a physical therapist for neck pain has proven to be a better form of treatment than both surgery and pain medication. A Compleat Rehab therapist will take assistive measures by pinpointing the cause of your neck strain and reacting accordingly by prescribing rest, neck exercises, and regular icing.

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This is by no means a comprehensive list – physical therapists treat a huge number of conditions and diseases related to the musculoskeletal system.

Not sure if a physical therapist can help you? Talk to a therapist today!

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Compleat Rehab

THIS NOTICE DESCRIBES HOW MEDICAL INFORMATION ABOUT YOU MAY BE USED AND DISCLOSED AND HOW YOU CAN GET ACCESS TO THIS INFORMATION. PLEASE REVIEW IT CAREFULLY.

If you have any questions about this Notice of Privacy Practices, please contact our Privacy Officer, by telephone at (704) 824-7800 or in writing at 2675 Court Drive, Gastonia, NC 28054.
This Notice of Privacy Practices describes how we may use and disclose your protected health information to carry out treatment, payment or health care operations and for other purposes that are permitted or required by law. It also describes your rights to access and control your protected health information. Protected health information is information about you, including demographic information, that may identify you and that relates to your past, present or future physical or mental health or condition and related health care services.

A. WE MUST PROTECT YOUR PROTECTED HEALTH INFORMATION

We are required to abide by the terms of this Notice of Privacy Practices. We may change the terms of our Notice of Privacy Practices at any time. The new Notice of Privacy Practices will be effective for all protected health information that we maintain at that time. Upon your request, we will provide you with any revised Notice of Privacy Practices. You may request a revised version by calling or writing our Privacy Officer and requesting that a revised copy be sent to you in the mail or asking for one at the time of your next appointment.

B. USE AND DISCLOSURES OF PROTECTED HEALTH INFORMATION

Your protected health information may be used and disclosed by our office staff others outside of our office who are involved in your care and treatment for the purpose of providing health care services to you.
Your protected health information may also be used and disclosed to pay your health care bills and to support the operation of our practice.
Following are examples of the types of uses and disclosures of your protected health information that we are permitted to make. These examples are not meant to be exhaustive, but to describe the types of uses and disclosures that may be made by our office.

1. Treatment: We will use and disclose your protected health information to provide, coordinate, or manage your health care and any related services. This includes the coordination or management of your health care with another provider.
For example, we would disclose your protected health information, as necessary, to a home health agency that provides care to you. We will also disclose protected health information to other healthcare providers who may be treating you.
For example, your protected health information may be provided to a physician to whom you have been referred to ensure that the physician has the necessary information to diagnose or treat you. In addition, we may disclose your protected health information from time-to-time to other health care providers (e.g., a specialist or laboratory) who become involved in your care by providing assistance with your health care diagnosis or treatment to us.
2. Payment: We may use and disclose protected health information about you so that the treatment and services you receive at Compleat Rehab may be billed to and payment may be collected from you, an insurance company, or a third party. This may include certain activities that your health insurance plan may undertake before it approves or pays for the health care services we recommend for you such as: making a determination of eligibility or coverage for insurance benefits, and reviewing services provided to you for medical necessity. For example, if you have a back injury, we may need to give your health plan information about your condition, supplies used, and services you received.
3. Healthcare Operations: We may use or disclose, as needed, your protected health information for healthcare operations. These uses and disclosures are necessary to run Compleat Rehab and make sure that all of our patients receive quality care. For example, we ma)'use protected health information to review our treatment and services and to evaluate the performance of our staff in caring for you. We may also combine protected health information about many patients to decide what additional services Compleat Rehab should offer, what services are not needed, and whether certain new treatments are effective. We may also disclose information to doctors, nurses, technicians, medical students, and other personnel for review and learning purposes, we may remove information that identifies you from this set of protected health information so others may use it to study health care and health care delivery without learning the identities of specific patients.
We may share your protected health information with third party "business associates" that perform various activities (for example, billing or transcription services) for our practice. Whenever an arrangement between our practice and a business associate involves the use or disclosure of your protected health information, we will have a written contract that contains terms that will protect the privacy of your protected health information.
We may use and / or disclose protected health information to contact you to, remind you about an appointment you have for treatment or medical care.
We may use or disclose your protected health information, as necessary, to provide you with information about treatment alternatives or other health--related benefits and services that may be of interest to you. You may contact our Privacy Officer to request that these materials not be sent to you.
4. Other Permitted and Required Uses and Disclosures That May Be Made Without Your Authorization or Opportunity to Agree and Object:
We may use or disclose your protected health information in the following situations without your authorization or providing you the opportunity to agree or object. These situations include:
(i) Required by Law: We may use or disclose your protected health information to the extent that the use or disclosure is required by law. The use or disclosure will be made in compliance with the law and will be limited d to the relevant requirements of the law. You will be notified, if required by law, of any such uses or disclosures.

(ii) Public Health: We may disclose your protected health information for public health activities and purposes to a public health authority that is permitted by law to collect or receive the information. For example, a disclosure may be made for the purpose of preventing or controlling disease, injury or disability.

(iii) Communicable Diseases: We may disclose your protected health information, if authorized by law, to a person who may have been exposed to a communicable disease or may otherwise be at risk of contracting or spreading the disease or condition.

(iv) Health Oversight: We may disclose protected health information to a health oversight agency for activities authorized by law, such as audits, investigations, and inspections. Oversight agencies seeking this information include government agencies t-rat oversee the health care system, government benefit programs, other government regulatory programs and civil rights laws.

(v) Abuse or Neglect: We may disclose your protected health information to a public health authority that is authorized by law to receive reports of child abuse or neglect. In addition, we may disclose your protected health information if we believe that you have been a victim of abuse, neglect or domestic violence to the governmental entity or agency authorized to receive such information. In this case, the disclosure will be made consistent with the requirements of applicable federal and state laws.

(vi) Legal Proceedings: We may disclose protected health information in the course of any judicial or administrative proceeding, in response to an order of a court or administrative tribunal (to the extent such disclosure is expressly authorized), or in certain conditions in response to a subpoena, discovery request or other lawful process.

(vii) Law Enforcement: We may also disclose protected health information, so long as applicable legal requirements are met, for law enforcement purposes, these law enforcement purposes include (1) legal processes and otherwise required by law, (2) limited information requests for identification and location purposes, (3) pertaining to victims of a crime, (4) suspicion that death has occurred as a result of criminal conduct, (5) in the event that a crime occurs on the premises of our practice, and (6) medical emergency (not on our premises) and it is likely that a crime has occurred.

(viii) Research: We may disclose your protected health information to researchers when their research has been approved by an institutional review board that has reviewed the research proposal and established protocols to ensure the privacy of your protected health information.

(ix) Criminal Activity: Consistent with applicable federal and state laws, we may disclose your protected health information, if we believe that the use or disclosure is necessary to prevent or lessen a serious and imminent threat to the health or safety of a person or the public. We may also disclose protected health information if it is necessary for law enforcement authorities to identify or apprehend an individual.

(x) Military Activity and National Security: When the appropriate conditions apply, we may use or disclose protected health information of individuals who are Armed Forces personnel (1) for activities deemed necessary by appropriate military command authorities; (2) for the purpose of a determination by the Department of Veterans Affairs of your eligibility for benefits, or (3) to foreign military authority if you are a member of that foreign military services. We may also disclose your protected health information to authorized federal officials for conducting national security and intelligence activities, including for the provision of protective services to the President or others legally authorized.

(xi) Workers' Compensation: We may disclose your protected health information as authorized to comply with workers' compensation laws and other similar legally established programs.
5. Other Permitted and Required Uses of Disclosures That Require Providing You the Opportunity to Agree or Object
We may use and disclose your protected health information in the following instances. You have the opportunity to agree or object to the use or disclosure of all or part of your protected health information. If you are not present or able to agree or object to the use or disclosure of the protected health information, then we may, using professional judgment, determine whether the disclosure is in your best interest.

Others Involved in Your Health Care or Payment for our Care:

Unless you object, we may disclose to a member of your family, a relative, a close friend or any other person you identify, your protected health information that directly relates to that person's involvement in your health care. If you are unable to agree or object to such a disclosure, we may disclose such information as necessary if we determine that it is in your best interest based on our professional judgment. We may use or disclose protected health information to notify or assist in notifying a family member, personal representative or any other person that is responsible for your care of your location, general condition or death. Finally, we may use or disclose your protected health information to an authorized public or private entity to assist in disaster relief efforts and to coordinate uses and disclosures to family or other individuals involved in your health care.
6. Uses and Disclosures of Protected Health Information Based upon Your Written Authorization Other uses and disclosures of your protected health information will be made only with your written authorization, unless otherwise permitted or required by law as described below. You may revoke this authorization in writing at any time. If you revoke your authorization, we will no longer use or disclose your protected health information for the reasons covered by your written authorization. Please understand that we are unable to take back any disclosures already made with your authorization.
C. YOUR RIGHTS
Following is a statement of your rights with respect to your protected health information and a brief description of how you may exercise these rights
1. You have the right to inspect and copy your protected health information
This means you may inspect and obtain a copy of protected health information about you for so long as we maintain the protected health information. You may obtain your medical record that contains medical and billing records and any other records that we use for making decisions about you. As permitted by federal or state law, we may charge you a reasonable copy fee for a copy of your records.
2. You have the right to request a restriction of your protected health information
This means you may ask us not to use or disclose any part of your protected health information for the purposes of treatment, payment or health care operations. You may also request that any part of your protected health information not be disclosed to family members or friends who may be involved in your care or for notification purposes as described in this Notice of Privacy Practices. Your request must state the specific restriction requested and to whom you want the restriction to apply.

We are not required to agree to a restriction that you may request. If we agree to the requested restriction, we may not use or disclose your protected health information in violation of that restriction unless it is needed to provide emergency treatment. With this in mind, please discuss any restriction you wish to request with your health provider.

You may request a restriction by making your request in writing to our Privacy Officer. In your request, you must tell us (1) what information you want to limit; (2) whether you want to limit our use, disclosure, or both; and (3) to whom you want the limits to apply, for example, disclosures to your spouse.
3. You have the right to request to receive confidential communications from us by alternative means or at an alternative location
We will accommodate reasonable requests. We may also condition this accommodation by asking you for information as to how payment will be handled or specification of an alternative address or other method of contact. We will not request an explanation from you as to the basis for the request. Please make this request in writing to our Privacy Officer.
4. Your may have right to amend your protected health information
This means you may request an amendment of protected health information about you in a designated record set for so long as we maintain this information. In certain cases, we may deny your request for an amendment. If we deny your request for amendment, you have the right to file a statement of disagreement with us and we may prepare a rebuttal to your statement and will provide you with a copy of any such rebuttal. Please contact our Privacy Officer if you have questions about amending your medical record.
5. You have the right to receive an accounting of certain disclosures we have made, if any, of your protected health information This right applies to disclosures for purposes other than treatment, payment or health care operations as described in this Notice of Privacy Practices. It excludes disclosures we may have made to you if you authorized us to make the disclosure, to family members or friends involved in your care, or for notification purposes, for national security or intelligence, to law enforcement (as provided in the privacy rule) or correctional facilities, as part of a limited data set disclosure. The right to receive this information is subject to certain exceptions, restrictions and limitations.
6. You have the right to obtain a paper copy of this notice from us
upon request, even if you have agreed to accept this notice electronically.
D. COMPLAINTS
You may complain to us or to the Secretary of Health and Human Services if you believe your privacy rights have been violated by us. You may file a complaint with us by notifying our Privacy Officer of your complaint. We will not retaliate against you for filing a complaint

You may contact our Privacy Officer at (704) 824-7800 for further information about the complaint process.

This notice was published and becomes effective on August l, 2011.