How can physical therapy improve your quality of life? Physical therapy is the field of medicine that is devoted to restoring and improving human movement. Physical therapists achieve correct posture and spinal alignment by reducing pain and using physical methods such as strength training, massage, and using the body’s natural healing processes. Physical therapists are experts in movement, kinesiology (the study of human movement), and functional independence.  Physical therapists help people of all ages and skills to improve strength, restore mobility and reduce pain.   Restoring mobility and pain-free movement is crucial to an individual’s ability to participate and perform in recreational and work duties, as well as improving their quality of life and overall health.  This leads to a reduced risk of falls and reduced risk of stroke and heart attack1.

Nobody wants surgery, so then why do individuals consult with an orthopedic surgeon? Surgery is a surgeon’s specialty. That’s what they are trained to do. Sure, they will offer costly imaging, ineffective injections and tell you to “rest and see how it feels.” The problem with this common conservative approach is that it actually does nothing to help correct the underlying issue that’s contributing to your symptoms when you need it the most. Then, in 4 weeks of  “letting it rest” it’s worse! Even if they offer to go to their own physical therapy office, these physical therapists only get post-operative patients, they will treat you in a group with other patients, you will get lost and they are not equipped to help you avoid surgery. So then when your symptoms are worse in 4 weeks, of course, the only option left is surgery!  Avoiding surgery takes an independent Doctor of Physical Therapy who’s only focus is helping people avoid surgery, providing one-on-one care and taking the time to do it right, teaching patients how to effectively control their symptoms, and returning to normal symptom-free mobility.

In many cases, physical therapy has been shown to be just as effective as surgery when treating a wide variety of conditions from low back pain, shoulder issues, and knee arthritis2,3.  How wonderful to be able to participate in several weeks of non-invasive therapy to get the same outcomes as an invasive, costly, and risky surgery! 

Unfortunately, there are misconceptions about physical therapy that may discourage people from seeking the skilled guidance of a licensed Doctor of Physical Therapy.  Some misconceptions include insurance coverage, physician involvement, preconceptions about pain, not understanding what physical therapists are capable of treating, clinical indications, and therapists’ education.  

In all 50 states of the U.S., a physical therapist can perform a physical therapy evaluation without a physician referral.  By participating in a physical therapist evaluation, you will learn what physical limitations you have and how they relate to your pain or limited independence, and how to correct them.

Physical therapy is typically a covered service by most insurance policies.  For people that have Medicare, services are covered at 80%, and the other 20% is covered by a supplemental policy if you have one. Other insurance policies may even cover physical therapy costs at 100% making it a very affordable alternative to costly surgeries3. Insurance companies recognize the significant value physical therapy holds in the medical field.

Physical therapy is not only for injuries or accidents.  The skilled physical therapist is able to evaluate and diagnose potential issues before they lead to more serious injuries or falls.  A physical therapist can improve the joint function in one joint to impact the functional performance of another.  For example, if you are having pain in your back-related to vertebral dysfunction, the therapist can improve the joint mechanics and muscle activity of your low back, and further improve the joint mechanics of your hips and knees, reducing potential complications down the road. All treatments are specific to the individual needs and vary from person to person with the ultimate goal of eliminating pain and restoring natural movement.

Doctors of Physical Therapy are capable of and license to treat numerous physical disabilities from orthopedic conditions such as pre-and post- joint surgery, chronic pain to Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis. Doctors of Physical utilize our body’s natural healing abilities by incorporating state of the art treatment techniques including laser therapy, trigger point dry needling, manual hands-on skills, instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization, and private education/training so clients understand exactly what is occurring and how they can alleviate symptoms by themselves. 

 A licensed Doctor of Physical Therapy or physical therapist assistant can only deliver and provide physical therapy services.  Physical therapists are highly educated Doctors of Physical Therapy that possess a thorough understanding of the human body’s anatomy, physiology, biomechanics, and health conditions.  All therapists participate in yearly continuing education to maintain their state license to practice.  Many therapists hold board certifications for specific areas of medicine including neurology, orthopedics, geriatrics, pediatrics, cardiovascular-pulmonary, sports enhancement, research, and women’s health. 

Physical therapy is not something that can be done on your own or by any other health/medical practitioner.  You need the critical and trained eye of a licensed doctor of physical therapy in order to assess and determine an appropriate diagnosis, limitations, and treatments.  So, if you want to avoid surgery and become pain-free consult with a doctor of physical therapy first!

Dr. Adam M Cramer, PT, DPT is a licensed Doctor of Physical Therapy and the owner of MyoFit Clinic in Ashtabula, Chardon & Middlefield, Ohio. Connect with us on the chat to the bottom right or below at one of our 3 convenient locations!!


  1. Effects of a Fall Prevention Exercise Program on Muscle Strength and Balance of the Old-old Elderly. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4242952/. Nov. 2014
  2. http://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/common-knee-surgery-may-not-help-you-study-finds-n376556. June 16, 2015.
  3.  Physical Therapy or Advanced Imaging as First Management Strategy Following a New Consultation for Low Back Pain in Primary Care: Associations with Future Health Care Utilization and Charges.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/25772625. June 2015.