Common Myths About Physical Therapy

At times, it feels like physical therapy could use some decoding. Myths and misconceptions surrounding what physical therapy is and how it works can lead to poor decision making and ultimately prevent you from hitting your goals. So, we’re here to unravel a few of them and shed some light on our core service.


1. It’s only for injured athletes

The role of physical therapists extends far beyond merely alleviating pain after an accident or a surgery. Physical therapy also focuses on injury prevention, performance enhancement, and overall well-being. By identifying and addressing movement and functional issues before they escalate into severe or debilitating conditions, physical therapists can potentially save individuals time, money, and frustration in the long run.

2. A Doctor's referral is mandatory

The necessity of a doctor's referral varies by state. For instance, in New York, a referral is not mandatory; individuals can directly contact a physical therapy office for appointments and work directly with physical therapists without a referral.

3. Once physical therapy is complete, it's no longer needed

Physical therapy may be an ongoing part of an athlete's routine even after discharge. Exercise programs can be key to maintaining optimal health and performance, preventing injuries (or re-injuries), and addressing any new concerns that may arise. We recommend keeping your physical therapist in your corner and checking in with them regularly to maintain your progress.

4. PT actually stands for Pain & Torture

Physical therapists aim to minimize pain and discomfort, not to inflict it. Expect some initial discomfort, but it typically diminishes as sessions progress. Therapists adjust treatment based on individual pain thresholds to ensure continual improvement without risking reinjury or worseniwng conditions.

5. Physical Therapy can't replace surgery

Physical therapy can effectively treat various conditions, including muscle tears, osteoarthritis, degenerative disk disease, and rotator cuff tears, potentially averting the need for surgery. By working closely with a physical therapist, individuals can explore non-invasive treatment options and reserve surgery as a last resort.

6. Physical Therapy requires only a certification

Most people are unaware that to become a Doctor of Physical Therapy you need about seven years of schooling, accompanied by substantial hands-on experience and ongoing professional development even after entering practice. Once the didactics and clinicals are complete, graduates sit for a rigorous national board exam to obtain a license to treat patients.

7. You’ll be given clamshells no matter what

While there’s a time and a place for clamshells, clamshells are not enough to get you better. Your PT should give you a custom program based on your unique needs and specific conditions. To learn more about what the right PT can offer you, check out Your Guide to Finding the Right Physical Therapist for Your Needs.

8. Your PT will tell you to stop doing what you love

Reducing or eliminating aggravating activities can be necessary to progress, but frequently it requires a modification of the dosage, not a full stop. Unless it's for health and safety reasons, your physical therapist will not tell you to stop participating in your favorite activities. Instead, they can incorporate these activities into your treatment plan.

9. Physical therapy is just exercise-based

Research shows that the multi-faceted approach of exercise,  manual therapy and patient education is the most effective treatment plan for a variety of musculoskeletal injuries. Every plan of care is different and will be tailored to your unique needs and goals.


Understanding these misconceptions can help individuals make informed decisions about their healthcare and better appreciate the value of physical therapy in improving their overall well-being. Tap the link below to connect with a physical therapist at MOTIVNY today. 

mental benefits of pt



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