The True Meaning of Physical Therapy: You Are Not Your MRI

The True Meaning of Physical Therapy: You Are Not Your MRI

Physical therapists are not doctors. They don’t even practice medicine. They’re just like any other doctor, except they work with people instead of animals or plants. But it’s very important to understand that physical therapists aren’t medical professionals either; they’re merely technicians who specialize in helping patients recover from injuries and illnesses through various methods such as massage, exercise, acupuncture, chiropractic care and more.

But there’s one thing that all physical therapists have in common: they’re trained to treat human beings. And if you think about it, that makes them pretty much the same as doctors. They may not have all the latest equipment and techniques, but at least they’ve been educated enough to diagnose problems and prescribe treatments based on their training and experience.

So why does everyone assume that physical therapists must be health care professionals?

Well, because it’s easier than thinking about it. There are no laws requiring physical therapists to be licensed physicians or nurses (or any other kind of healthcare professional) so they tend to get lumped into the “healthcare” category without really realizing what they’re doing.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t seek out a physical therapist if you need treatment for your injury or illness. Just remember that while they might seem like doctors, they’re not. Their training is in health, not medicine. That means they’re not diagnosing any conditions (they wouldn’t know what they were looking at since they aren’t doctors) or prescribing any treatments (they’re not medical professionals and they don’t have that kind of access).

When you get down to it, all physical therapists are really doing is creating a program of health-related exercises to help you get better. That’s it. That’s all they do. You can throw in the occasional acupuncture treatment or some other kind of alternative medicine if the therapist has a background in that, but at it’s core, physical therapy is still pretty basic and not very glamorous. Just remember that when you visit your physical therapist.

Of course, that isn’t to say that some physical therapists don’t go above and beyond the call of duty to help their patients (just like some doctors do). If you’re lucky enough to get one of these physical therapists who really cares about you, then you should consider yourself blessed and remember that they really do want the best for you. Physical therapy is definitely not an easy job or one that anyone can do every day. It takes a special kind of person to be able to work with patients on a regular basis without becoming jaded or burnt out.

Just remember that the physical therapist is human too, no matter how much education they have. Which means they can’t be expected to be perfect. It also means they quite possibly make mistakes from time to time. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen. And when it does, you need to remember that you always have choices in how you respond to a situation and how you respond can have a huge impact on whether or not you succeed in getting better.

The first thing you need to do is find the right physical therapist. This may seem a little odd, but it actually is the first step. You see, changing physical therapists can be a very long and drawn out process (especially if you have an illness that takes a long time to get better from) so it’s in your best interest to go to someone who knows what they’re doing right from the start. If you pick the right physical therapist to begin with, changing therapists will only be a last resort.

The next thing you need to do is follow the treatment program they design for you to the letter.

This may also seem a little odd since after all, the physical therapist is the one who created the program and should know best, right?

Well in some cases yes, but in others no. Some physical therapists are better at creating programs than others. If you find one of the physical therapists who is good at creating programs, then it will be in your best interest to follow it to the letter since they obviously know what they’re doing.

However, if you find that no matter how hard you try, you simply can’t get any better and your current physical therapist just isn’t helping, then you need to figure out if it’s them or you.

Sources & references used in this article:

Investigation of a method for generating synthetic CT models from MRI scans of the head and neck for radiation therapy by SH Hsu, Y Cao, K Huang, M Feng… – Physics in Medicine & …, 2013 –

A unifying probabilistic Bayesian approach to derive electron density from MRI for radiation therapy treatment planning by MSR Gudur, W Hara, QT Le, L Wang… – Physics in Medicine & …, 2014 –

Comparison of MRI and CT for detection of acute intracerebral hemorrhage by CS Kidwell, JA Chalela, JL Saver, S Starkman, MD Hill… – Jama, 2004 –

Whole-body dual-modality PET/CT and whole-body MRI for tumor staging in oncology by G Antoch, FM Vogt, LS Freudenberg, F Nazaradeh… – Jama, 2003 –

Can medial temporal lobe regions distinguish true from false? An event-related functional MRI study of veridical and illusory recognition memory by R Cabeza, SM Rao, AD Wagner… – Proceedings of the …, 2001 – National Acad Sciences

An MRI investigation into the function of the transversus abdominis muscle during “drawing-in” of the abdominal wall by J Hides, S Wilson, W Stanton, S McMahon, H Keto… – Spine, 2006 –

Soft tissue impingement syndrome of the ankle: diagnostic efficacy of MRI and clinical results after arthroscopic treatment by JW Lee, JS Suh, YM Huh, ES Moon… – Foot & ankle …, 2004 –

Control over brain activation and pain learned by using real-time functional MRI by RC DeCharms, F Maeda, GH Glover… – Proceedings of the …, 2005 – National Acad Sciences