Healthy Beginnings

Ask the Experts: What is Physical Therapy?

Q. What is physical therapy?

A. I’ve been practicing since fall 2003, and I still don’t really have a great definition of what physical therapy actually is. Is it exercise? Is it stretching? Is it education? Is it mobility? Is it strengthening? Is it restoration of function? It’s a little bit of everything, depending on what the patient needs.

At Active Physical Therapy we don’t utilize a lot of the traditional physical therapy modalities that many clinics use, such as ice, heat, ultrasound or electrical stimulation. We focus on education, exercise and manual therapy. Dr. Michael Spevak and myself specialize in orthopedics. We are both board certified in orthopedics and we treat a variety of musculoskeletal skeletal disorders [that involve the] knee, shoulder, spine, hip or ankle. We’ll also see individuals with vertigo and headaches, [and] we’ve done some post-stroke rehab.

Q. What does a physical therapist do?

A. Let’s say a patient comes in with an injury, or a problem with their shoulder. At the first exam, we evaluate shoulder motion and shoulder strength, and then perform a special test to help figure out what the diagnosis is for the patient. From there, we will try to figure out what the patient first needs to do to help themselves.

So, let’s say they have a lot of pain when they try to lift their arm up over their head. We will try some different testing and movements to try and figure out what makes it easier for the patient to lift their arm up. Whatever that movement or motion or stretch or force is, we teach it to the patient and then have them do it consistently. That’s how a physical therapy evaluation and home exercise program are started. We o er machines and equipment tables where the patient can do their therapeutic exercises. Now, I may decide that I’m going to do some manual therapy on that shoulder as well, meaning I’m going to stretch or push or pull or tug or mobilize the shoulder in different ways to help restore motion, decrease pain and help with functional movement of the shoulder.

Q. Why should a patient consider going to physical therapy?

A. If someone su ers from an injury, a fracture, a tear, a sprain or a strain they may need to go to a physical therapist to regain functional movement, to regain motion and strength, and to get rid of pain and sti ness to that injured body part, area or region. In that case, they may be referred to a physical therapist by a doctor or a surgeon.

Historically, if a patient is suffering from joint pain, is having balance problems or can’t get rid of neck pain, they’ll go to their doctor who will assess and then decide what to do from there. Most of our patients that end up here are referred by some sort of primary care practitioner, surgeon or orthopedist. However, more and more insurances are saying that you don’t need to go to your doctor first. If you hurt your shoulder, you can go straight to your physical therapist. It’s becoming more and more prevalent over the years. Right now, I’d say about 20 percent of our patients come to us without a referral. If you look at therapy around the world, in most modern developed nations, if you hurt yourself you go to a “physio” (a common term for physical therapist).

Q. Does insurance cover physical therapy?

A. It’s really easy to call and make a physical therapy appointment. At the time you call the receptionist, front desk attendant or office manager, they will ask you if you have insurance, and then they will contact your insurance company to figure out what your physical therapy benefits are. You can also always pay cash – each clinic has a cash pay rate.

5 Reasons to Make an Appointment with a Physical Therapist

1. You’ve lost function.
2. You have pain. If pain lingers, especially after rest, call a physical therapist. 3. You’ve been in a car accident or other traumatic event.
4. You su er from arthritis and/or joint problems.
5. You su er from dizziness or chronic headaches.

Active Physical Therapy is the outpatient physical therapy clinic of Dr. Michael Spevak and Dr. Parley Anderson. Active Physical Therapy specializes in a variety of orthopedic injuries as well as the spine. Common injuries treated include neck and back pain, running injuries, shoulder pain, knee pain, sports performance, post-surgical rehab, pre-surgical rehab, injury prevention/ wellness, motor vehicle injuries and more. For more information, call 775- 786-2400 or visit