Whether you’re suffering from an injury or managing a chronic condition, many people work with physical therapists to improve the way they move and control their bodies. Some require short-term therapy, such as in the case of an acute illness or surgery, while others seek long-term care to manage pain or other symptoms that limit their daily activities.
Most PTs have been trained in medical schools to provide safe and effective treatment. During their education, they learn about the fundamentals of differential diagnosis (DA) — identifying and documenting red flags for non-musculoskeletal conditions to ensure the patient is receiving appropriate PT care. DA also helps PTs to make informed referral decisions when they recognize a patient who would be better managed by another health-care professional, such as a physician or specialist.
In a retrospective study analyzing DA in patients treated by PTs at a university health center, Mintken et al found no adverse events, serious pathologies missed or licenses or credentials revoked, showing that PTs have a high level of safety and competence in their practice of medicine. Additionally, in a study on DA in low back pain (LBP), Boissonnault and Ross found that PTs identified and documented 8/11 red flags for LBP, which led to timely referral to physicians for evaluation and management.
Your therapist will take into account your personal goals, like functional improvements or feeling better, and create a treatment plan that may include exercises and other treatments, as well as a discussion of your current situation and your medical history. Keep in mind that PT is not an instant cure; you’ll likely need to work hard at it, and it won’t always feel good. Remember to breathe and stay calm if you’re struggling during an exercise; pushing yourself through pain can cause more damage in the long run. physical therapy