October is National Physical Therapy month, a time of the year when PTs like Tacoma physical therapist Chad McCann celebrate their profession while educating others about the role physical therapy plays in improving the health and vitality of their patients — and of health care in general. 

In doing so, McCann points out that while physical therapy’s roles are both broad and diverse, several misconceptions still exist about what physical therapy is, what it isn’t, and the various ways it can help people improve the health and vitality of people of all stages in life. 

“When a lot of people think about physical therapy, they think rehabilitation. But that’s just a part of what we do,” said McCann, physical therapist at 3Dimensional Physical Therapy & Sports Conditioning in Tacoma. “Physical therapists can improve the lives of people of all ages dealing with a number of common ailments … even people dealing with no ailments at all.” 

According to the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), physical therapists (PTs) are highly educated and licensed health care professionals who can help patients reduce pain and improve or restore mobility. Sure, this includes those who’ve suffered musculoskeletal injuries, McCann says, but it’s much more than that. 

Here five common misconceptions about physical therapy: 

I need to be injured to see a physical therapist

Post-injury and post-surgical rehabilitation is just a sliver of what they do. It’s common for a physical therapist to treat other ailments like balance issues, headaches, pelvic pain, chronic pain, incontinence, and basic joint and muscle pain. They also work with clients on injury prevention and athletic enhancement. 

It’s going to hurt

Physical therapists don’t subscribe to the philosophy of “no pain, no gain.” In fact, they’re specifically trained to work within your pain threshold to ensure your gains in movement and strength are safe and incremental. 

Surgery and/or medication are better options

Both have their place, but multiple studies have shown that physical therapy is more effective and safer than such common options as subscription painkillers and surgeries for lumbar spinal stenosis, degenerative disk disease, and even meniscus tears. 

PT is expensive

Physical therapy is a real bargain when compared with surgery. But more than that, studies have shown that for the treatment of one of the most common ailments, non-specific back pain, patients can save up to 60 percent on their medical bills if they visit a physical therapist early in their treatment. 

I can’t see a PT without a prescription or referral

 According to the APTA, this myth is shared by 70% of health care consumers. The truth is all 50 states allow patients to be evaluated by a PT without a physician referral. 

To learn more about how physical therapy can benefit a particular ailment or condition, or for an injury, pain or movement evaluation, contact the physical therapy team at 3Dimensional Physical Therapy & Sports Conditioning.