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Conditions You May Not Have Known that Physical Therapists Treat

It is known that PT’s work with people after they are injured, after they have surgery and if they need a boost in their workout routine. However there are quite a few areas that PT’s are experts in that are not quite as well known. In order to keep up a PT license, PT’s are required to take continuing education courses. At some of these courses special skills are taught in order to diagnose and treat disorders that are within the scope of practice for PT’s to treat. Common conditions that you may not know that PT’s treat are incontinence, vertigo/dizziness, temporomandibular joint dysfunction, or jaw pain, headaches, and lymphedema.

Incontinence, especially urinary incontinence is common in women after pregnancy, childbirth, surgery, pelvic floor weakness or spasm, or overall deconditioning. PT’s can help re train the pelvic floor muscles and assist in regaining control to avoid the frequency of incontinence. Depending on the symptoms that a person presents with a PT may use biofeedback techniques, toileting schedules, or manual techniques if appropriate. PT’s do not only help women with incontinence issues, men who have problems with incontinence due to prostate issues may also benefit from physical therapy.

Vertigo/dizziness is a very common problem. The vestibular system includes the parts of the inner ear and brain that help control balance and eye movements. The vestibular system works with the visual system to keep objects in focus when the head is moving. If the system is damaged by disease, aging, or injury, vestibular disorders can result, and are often associated with one or more of these symptoms, among others: Vertigo and dizziness. Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV) is very common, affecting 9 out of 100 older adults. Most people (85%) recover from BPPV with a simple neck maneuver that can be performed by a physical therapist. Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy (VRT) is a form of physical therapy that uses specialized exercises that result in gaze and gait stabilization. Most VRT exercises involve head movement, and head movements are essential in stimulating and retraining the vestibular system. Vestibular rehabilitation therapy has been a highly effective modality for most adults and children with disorders of the vestibular or central balance system.

            Temporomandibular joint dysfunction (or TMJ) can be cause by many different problems. It could be related to dysfunction in the actual joint, or poor posture in the neck and upper back. A PT can determine the most likely cause of the joint pain and offer jaw exercises, postural reeducation, or even manual releases of the muscles surrounding the jaw to improve the pain.  Related to TMJ pain is headaches. PT’s are well versed to determine the cause of your headaches and help alleviate the symptoms. Headaches can be cause by poor posture, tension in the neck muscles, injuries or stress. PT’s can work manually with the muscles to decrease the tension and then teach you strengthening exercises to improve your posture and avoid the headaches in the future.

            Lymphedema occurs when there is damage to lymph system. Swelling occurs in the arms or the legs. It is very common to have damage to the lymph system after certain types of cancer treatments where the lymph nodes are removed, such as with breast cancer. PT’s treat lymphedema by performing Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD) massage and wrapping the limbs with a special technique to reduce swelling.

A PT can be helpful in ways that you did not realize, and these are just a few. If you experience any of these problems you may want to discuss them with your primary care physician and see if physical therapy is an appropriate choice for you.