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What Injuries Require Physical Therapy?

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Physical rehabilitation can treat a number of injuries and conditions ranging from something mild, such as a low-grade sprained ankle or chronic back pain, to something more severe, such as a severely sprained or torn ligament. Additionally, physical therapists can work with other professionals such as occupational therapists to respond to conditions such as stroke or immunological disorders. 

This article examines what injuries require physical therapy. You might be surprised to learn that you don’t need to be severely injured to see the benefits of total physical therapy and even people with mild injuries can enjoy a marked improvement in their physical comfort and performance from adhering to a physical therapy program. 

What is physical rehabilitation?

If you experience a physical, brain, or immune injury that hinders your ability to function properly, physical rehabilitation might be your best option. Physical rehab can help relieve pain, promote healing, and restore function and movement throughout the body. Over time, physical rehabilitation programs can improve strength, endurance, and balance- all essential components of injury prevention. 

Physical therapy is conducted with various modalities including hot and cold packs, ultrasound, laser therapy, physical exercise, stretches, and more. Studies have shown the sooner patients begin rehab following an injury, the faster and more complete their recovery. The aim of physical therapy is to address your injuries before they become chronic. 

Joint and muscle pain

Joint and muscle pain is the most common need for physical therapy. This pain can either be acute or chronic and it can be in any part of the musculoskeletal system. Common areas for physical therapy include ankles, wrists, shoulders, hips, feet, and ribs. 

These areas of the body can sustain more severe injuries which we will talk about later. In this section, however, we will refer to pain that results from less severe causes. The majority of the pain associated with these cases is from microtrauma that wears on the muscle, joint, tendon, ligament, or bone over time, causing discomfort. Physical therapy aims to strengthen the muscle and respond to muscular imbalances that may cause pain and discomfort. 

Back pain 

Back pain is in a category all by itself due to the high prevalence among adults. In fact, about 80% of adults experience lower back pain at some point in their adult life. Again, the majority of these cases aren’t severe, but they provide the patient with significant discomfort. Other common, less severe injuries associated with back pain are pulled muscles that result from everyday activities such as picking up boxes or contorting your body in a specific way.

Sports injuries 

  • Runner’s knee. This common injury occurs when individuals run for long periods of time improperly. The impact on hard surfaces causes the joints, muscles, and ligaments to tighten. Over time, grinding and improper positioning causes pain in and around the kneecap
  • Shoulder injuries. Shoulder injuries occur most often in contact sports, but they can also be caused by intense motions such as throwing a baseball. Torn labrums, shoulder fractures, shoulder dislocations, acromioclavicular joint (ACJ) injuries, and thrower’s shoulders are all common shoulder injuries. Some of these injuries might require surgery and extensive recovery periods. To learn about the most common shoulder injuries in sports, click here.
  • Sprained ankles. Sprained ankles occur when the ankle twists in an awkward position and puts an undue amount of torque on the ankle ligaments. Sprains vary greatly in severity. A minor sprained ankle might not even necessitate physical therapy. A severe high ankle sprain, on the other hand, can take months to fully recover. Symptoms of an ankle sprain range from tenderness to severe bruising and a restrictive range of motion.
  • Pulled muscle. Pulled muscles are some of the most common sports injuries that require physical therapy. These injuries occur when a muscle overextends. Like sprains, the severity of pulled muscles varies greatly. The damage from a pulled muscle is not as severe as a torn ligament or muscle, but it can have long recovery times. A severely pulled hamstring, for example, can take months to heal. 

Brain injuries

People don’t typically associate physical therapy with brain injuries. However, when a patient endures a stroke, their brain is injured. Specific types of therapists, known as occupational therapists treat strokes in much the same way a physical therapist treats their patients, by devising a tailored approach to therapy that includes physical therapy. 

Immune injuries 

Physical therapists can also help victims of autoimmune injuries by creating diet plans and incorporating pool exercises that rebuild strength and take pressure off the joints. By reducing stress on the joints, physical therapists can relieve some of the inflammation within the patient’s body. Additionally, a balanced diet can help to do the same. Reducing inflammation within the body is an excellent way to promote overall immune system health. 


Physical therapy responds to a wide number of injuries that can range from mild to severe. Many people might believe physical therapy is only for athletes and the infirm, but they couldn’t be further from the truth. 

Everyone sustains injuries, whether they know it or not. Over time this microtrauma can cause discomfort and pain, and while you may not consider your injury severe at the time, it can quickly evolve into something more serious. That’s why physical therapists develop programs aimed at both rehabilitation and prevention.  

Robert Haynes did his degree in psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. He is interested in mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.

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