Most people know that physical therapy can help patients recovering from accidents or surgery, or those with painful conditions like arthritis. You probably know someone who’s gone to physical therapy after a knee replacement or maybe to help with their bad back. While physical therapy is definitely helpful in all these situations, it can also treat some conditions that may surprise people.
Here are 5 surprising conditions physical therapists treat:
Dizziness or Vertigo
Dizziness or vertigo can stop you in your tracks, and can have many causes. Frequently patients with persistent vertigo will consult an ear, nose, and throat specialist, thinking it’s an inner ear problem. This is sometimes the case, but not always. Vertigo can also result from issues with the body’s vestibular system, which controls the body’s awareness of directionality and movement through space. If anything disturbs this system, like an injury or misalignment in the neck, or other issues, you can feel like the room is spinning.
Patients often don’t think to get physical therapy for vertigo, but if other treatments have failed, a physical therapist may be able to clear up a problem with the vestibular system and help you feel better.
Painful Urination or Sex
When people have these types of issues, they often see a urologist or gynecologist. These doctors may be able to help if your pain is caused by an infection or certain other conditions. But this isn’t always the case. People of any gender can experience something called pelvic floor dysfunction, where the pelvic muscles aren’t working correctly for a variety of reasons. This commonly happens after pregnancy and childbirth, but can also occur due to aging, or any injury or surgery in the pelvic area. As a result, this pelvic floor dysfunction can cause problems like pain during urination or sex, incontinence, or erectile dysfunction.
How does physical therapy help? A physical therapist can prescribe exercises for pelvic floor therapy, which help you strengthen, lengthen, and retrain the pelvic floor muscles. Many people are able to find relief from their symptoms after a few weeks or months of PT.
Headaches are a common health complaint, and patients rarely think to see a physical therapist about them. However, many of the root causes of recurrent headaches can be treated with physical therapy. Tension headaches, for example, result from tension in the soft tissue or muscles around the neck and face. Interestingly, these issues sometimes trace back to problems as varied as poor posture and cervical (neck) range of motion restrictions. PT can help you release affected muscles, improve your posture, and strengthen muscles and tendons that may be contributing to your headaches.
Keep in mind that physical therapy can also overlap with other treatments, such as massage therapy, acupuncture, and chiropractic care. For example, a chiropractor may be able to use spinal manipulation to relieve tension in your neck, while a physical therapist can help correct posture and strengthen muscles to reduce the likelihood of this tension returning.
TMJ or Jaw Pain
Many people suffer from jaw pain or tension. Some are able to get relief by having dental work to correct misaligned teeth, or using a bite guard to prevent tooth grinding at night. However, there are many other causes of jaw pain that patients are often unaware of. Stress or tension can leave you clenching your jaw when you’re awake. Again, misalignments in the spine or cervical (neck) region can also contribute to TMJ.
If dental treatments aren’t helping your jaw pain, consider seeking a consult with a physical therapist or chiropractor. (Our practice handles both therapies, and may prescribe both if necessary.) PT can help release and improve mobility in the masseter, sternocleidomastoid, and lateral and medial pterygoid muscles (muscles around the TMJ). It can also help relive soft tissue restrictions and pain in the area, and may even make it easier for you to chew. Some patients say they got more relief for their jaw pain from physical therapy, spinal adjustments, or both, than they did from months of expensive orthodontic therapy.
A lot of people hear “herniated disk” and assume the solution is surgery. Sometimes, this is necessary. But back surgery comes with risks and possibly a long recovery time, and should only be a last resort. Physical therapy can help strengthen your back and core muscles, which reduces stress on the back, including disks. This helps with pain as you recover from a herniated disk, and reduces the risk of repeating the injury. Chiropractic care is often used in conjunction with physical therapy for disk and other back issues.
Wondering if physical therapy can help you? Contact us for a consultation to learn more about PT and other therapies we offer.
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