What is physical therapy?
What is physical therapy? Physical therapy is a branch of medicine that involves the teaching and practice of movements that are designed to restore the proper function of the body or to eliminate pain. In the human body, the joints and other musculoskeletal structures may become weakened through disease, injury, and degenerative changes related to the aging process. As a result of these injuries and other degenerative changes, we may feel pain as the body structures that become injured send out chemicals that alert the nerves in these that something is wrong in our bodies. These nerves may then transmit these messages to the brain resulting in our experience of pain.
Also injuries in one area of the body may affect other areas, as we begin to walk and move differently in the attempt to take the weight off these injured areas.
As a result of injuries and other conditions that affect certain structures in our bodies, we experience the symptom of pain. These painful symptoms may continue until the injury has healed itself or until the structural instability in the body has been corrected.
In many instances, irreversible damage has occurred in the body that won't simply get better by allowing it time to heal. Lying in bed and talking days to weeks off from work won't make the problem go away. Despite all the benefits of new technologies and modern medicine, there are many back and neck conditions in which certain tissues, such as cartilage and intervertebral discs, don't heal themselves in the same way that bones and muscle do.
Bones and muscles are inherently capable of regenerating themselves. These musculoskeletal tissues are so completely capable of regenerating themselves that they are designed to be stronger after the injury than before it. These structures heal so well because they are highly vascular. They have a rich supply of blood vessels, which provide oxygen, nutrients, and the necessary ingredients for new tissue growth.
Cartilage and discs, on the other hand, have a much pooper supply of blood vessels. The same goes for connective tissue structures such as the tendons and spinal ligaments. When these structures begin to change, due to age, the structures have a much more difficult time with cell growth and repair. For this reason, back pain conditions such as degenerative disc disease involve structural changes that are irreversible. We lose muscle mass over time. Bone density diminishes over time. Our spinal ligaments lose their elasticity over time, making them less flexible. This loss of flexibility is one of the reasons why we feel stiff sometimes as we age.
For many of the reasons mentioned above, our bodies undergo changes over time that may cause us to experience pain. Some of these pain conditions won't correct themselves with simple rest and the avoidance of exercise and heavy lifting. These are some of the factors that may cause us to experience chronic pain.
Does that mean that once we get older and the pain sets in that we must simply find a way to live with it? Absolutely not! That's where physical therapy and physical therapists come in.
In some cases, we must try to build strength around the structures that have become injured rather than simply repair the injured structures themselves. As we build strength around injured joints, that entire part of the body becomes more stable. Also, we must consider that strength building allows us the ability to exercise again, and exercise releases chemicals such as endorphins, which are some of the body's natural pain relievers.
Physical therapy and physical exercise also make us feel good and feel strong. These feelings eliminate negative mood experiences such as anxiety and depression. Negative mood experiences activate the sympathetic nervous system, which make the nerves that elicit the pain response more likely to trigger pain signals to the brain.
Physical therapy is a branch of medicine, prescribed by physicians, to teach exercises and flexibility techniques that make the body stronger, more mobile, and less likely to become re-injured.