POST 50
09/29/2013 08:01 am ET

When Is It Time To Seek Physical Therapy?

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Many folks aren't keen to rush into surgery. A study published earlier this year found that physical therapy can be just as good for a common injury and at far less cost and risk. Although therapy didn't always help, many of those who stuck with therapy had improved as much six months and one year later as those who received surgery right away, researchers found.

To find out more about physical therapy, Huff/Post50 spoke with Alice Bell, a physical therapist and spokesperson for the American Physical Therapy Association. According to Bell, physical therapists are trained to create an exercise prescription that can be beneficial to those suffering from everything from breaks to bruises to bursitis. She said a loss of balance and limitations in mobility can be effectively prevented, reversed or delayed at any age.

Bell noted that physical therapy is increasingly important due to an aging population; by 2030, 20 percent of the population will be 65 or older.

"We expect that about 40 percent of that 20 percent will have some level of disability and much of that disability will be preventable," Bell said.

Bell said that those who have been active their entire lives should have no problem continuing their exercise regimen as they grow older.

"But unfortunately we have a very sedentary society and they are not active and a physical therapist knows how to develop an exercise routine that is effective without being too aggressive," she said.

So how do you know when you should seek help from a physical therapist?

"Experiencing any kind of pain would be a meaningful trigger because pain's not normal at any age," Bell said. "You should see a physical therapist if all of a sudden you are having trouble climbing stairs.

"If you've been sedentary and have diabetes or some kind of chronic disease then that's another reason to see a therapist because you want to prevent the onset of pain or reduce the risk of a fall," she said.

A physical therapist's ability to help patients control pain often decreases the need for the long-term use of medicines, she said.

Bell emphasized though that it's a physical therapist's responsibility to refer someone to another health professional if that person isn't responding to physical therapy.

"We are now fortunately starting to see people becoming more proactive and they are seeking therapists to prevent things from happening or getting worse," she said. "If a therapist can see a person before there's been a loss of function or major pain then they can get someone on the right track with just a few visits."

She said it's the therapist's job to try and figure out the root cause of a problem.

For more information about physical therapy, go here. To find a physical therapist in your area, go here.

What's been your experience with physical therapy? Let us know in the comments section below.

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