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What to Consider Before Consulting a Physical Therapist

Posted By Dr. Brent Wells, D.C., Thursday, January 10, 2019
Updated: Thursday, January 10, 2019

x-ray of hand making OK symbol

Photo: Owen Beard on Unsplash

The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) boasts more than 95,000 members in the United States alone. Although many of those members are not licensed physical therapists, a majority of them are chiropractors, podiatrists, rheumatologists, neurologists and other respected medical professionals who take an active interest in their client’s overall wellbeing.


For patients who willingly participate in it, well-managed physical therapy has countless benefits, including:(APTA) boasts more than 95,000 members in the United States alone. Although many of those members are not licensed physical therapists, a majority of them are chiropractors, podiatrists, rheumatologists, neurologists and other respected medical professionals who take an active interest in their client’s overall wellbeing.

  • Increased range of motion
  • Decreased pain
  • Enhanced pain tolerance
  • Reduced swelling
  • Improved muscle tone
  • Revitalized mental health

Despite the increased availability, however, it can be difficult for a patient to feel confident when choosing a physical therapist. To make matters seem more complicated than they need to be, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported more than 200,000 physical therapists working on American soil as of 2016, with a steep increase of about 28% since then.

What Is A Physical Therapist?

According to the World Confederation for Physical Therapy, a physical therapist goes by many names: physiotherapist, kinesiologist, and chiropractors just to name a few. Regardless of the title, physical therapists provide a variety of essential services. Typically, their carefully cultivated techniques help patients restore, develop, or maintain function and mobility in any part of the body.


Patients seek help from physical therapists for numerous reasons, including but certainly not limited to the following:

  • Injury
  • Injury prevention
  • Rehabilitation
  • Physical promotion
  • Illness
  • Disease
  • Age
  • Environmental conditions
  • Professional goals

woman getting physical therapy


In short, physical therapists work diligently to help patients improve the quality of their life, whether that be simply regaining the ability to walk or competing in a marathon. It’s important to consider your needs and expectations before scheduling an appointment with a physical therapist.


What to Expect During Routine Physical Therapy

Although every patient is unique and all physical therapists use different methods, the average PT session involves a series of required activities and exercises. Especially if the therapist is legitimately qualified and professional, you can expect the following things to take place during most routine physical therapy appointments:

  • A comprehensive examination to analyze the patient’s physical limitations and therapeutic requirements
  • An evaluation of data from the initial analysis to make clinical decisions regarding the patient in question
  • Development a diagnosis and prognosis
  • Formulation of an effective treatment or intervention plan
  • A consultation about any potentially helpful referrals to outside healthcare professionals
  • Implementation of the aforementioned treatment plan
  • Gather data during each session to determine the expected outcome of treatments
  • Recommendations regarding self-care

If you experience anything that diverges from what’s listed above, be sure to communicate your concern with the therapist as soon as possible. It may be that you’re simply participating in innovative treatments. However, too many deviations should raise red flags.


doctor examining x-ray

Photo: rawpixel on Unsplash

How Does Physical Therapy Work?

Physical therapy is effective at helping patients in numerous ways, and the reasons for that are quite clear according to the experts. However, patients are always urged to consider their current physical fitness level and general health when formulating a treatment plan. Although physical therapists are specially trained to coax the body into regaining range of motion, strength or flexibility, they are not miracle workers.

Physical therapy works best when a patient is ready for a challenge. Licensed therapists can teach various exercises and stretches or introduce patients to specialized equipment to use independently but they cannot force patients to comply. Since effective physical therapy typically requires several weeks, individual self-care is an important part of the process and should never be underestimated.

During most therapeutic sessions, therapists will work with the patient to achieve pre-set goals. Throughout the process, but depending on the physical requirements of the patient, the following treatment techniques will likely be used:


Muscles and joints can become stiff and tight, especially after long periods of inactivity. Physical therapists assist patients with deep stretches to loosen muscles and tendons and improve overall functionality.

Strengthening Exercises

By improving the strength of the muscles in the body, patients thereby enjoy enhanced balance and increased range of motion. Physical therapists use graduated weights to boost the patient’s forte as much as possible.

Core Strengthening

The strength of the body’s core is perhaps the most important part of physical fitness. Therapists work on stability by guiding patients during various workouts that target the abdominal and thoracic muscles.

Application of Ice or Heat

Introducing heat and/or cold to muscles and joints can decrease pain, increase range of motion, and promote better blood flow throughout the body. Physical therapists use heat and/or ice treatments at the beginning or end of most sessions, especially with patients who have sustained an injury.

Acupressure or Chiropractic Massage

Targeted massage, also known as chiropractic massage or acupressure, is perhaps the most enjoyable part of most physical therapy sessions. Experts providing chiropractic massage use state-of-the-art procedures to relieve pain, make necessary adjustments to the musculoskeletal system and boost circulation.

Electrical Stimulation (E-Stim)

Used primarily as a tool for physical therapists, e-stim treatments send waves of dense electrical currents to certain parts of the body. Physical therapists will subject various muscles or nerves to controlled stimulation for the purposes to encouraging movement, sensation and blood flow.

NOTE: In some cases, a physical therapist may utilize ultrasounds or x-rays to determine the extent of an injury or monitor improvements. Ultrasounds may also be used to stimulate blood flow post-therapy.

When Is Physical Therapy Better than Medication?

Properly monitored and responsibly used prescription medication has its merits. However, physical therapy may be a better option for some people. Pharmaceuticals are often laden with potentially harmful chemicals and can present dangerous side effects. On the contrary, physical therapy tends to lean toward a more natural, holistic approach to healthcare.

Therefore, physical therapy may be better than medication when patients are experiencing adverse side effects. However, one should err on the side of caution and consult with a doctor before abruptly stopping any medicinal regimen. Often, routine physical therapy can serve as supplemental rehabilitation when used alongside the proper medication.

Who Can Benefit from Physical Therapy?

children playing outdoors

Photo: Mi Pham on Unsplash

Fortunately, physical therapy is safe, effective and appropriate for people of all ages, genders, and backgrounds. In fact, there’s an entire PT specialization that focused exclusively on children and another for the elderly. Expect the treatment options to be tailored around each patient’s unique needs and characteristics.


Dr. Brent WellsDr. Brent Wells, D.C. is graduate of the University of Nevada and Western States Chiropractic College in Portland, Oregon. As the founder of Better Health Chiropractic in Wasilla, Dr. Wells is highly respected in his field as one of the premier chiropractors in Alaska. He specializes in rehabilitative therapies which include acupressure, chiropractic massage, adjustments and natural pain relief at his multi-disciplinary clinic.

He enthusiastically continues his education with ongoing research on spinal conditions, neurology, physical therapy, biomechanics, and trauma. As an active member of the American Chiropractic Association and the American Academy of Spine Physicians, Dr. Wells also supports numerous studies and volunteers at the Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Foundation.


Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Tags:  chiropractic  physical therapy  wellness 

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How Meditation Increases Emotional Intelligence

Posted By Trevor McDonald, Wednesday, November 14, 2018
Updated: Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Emotional intelligence can be a sign of emotional strength, and it’s a trait that many people strive to achieve. But while most of us strive to become emotionally intelligent, some are confused about what that really means.

emotional intelligence illustration

What is emotional intelligence?

It’s common to confuse emotional intelligence with empathy, but the two are mutually exclusive. You can have empathy and not emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence comes into play when you have enough self-awareness to be able to manage your empathy.

Emotional intelligence is comprised of the following:

  1. Self-awareness — a conscious knowledge of one's own character, feelings, and desires.
  2. Social awareness — an understanding of other people’s feelings and motivations (this includes empathy).
  3. Self-management — the ability to maintain self-control, remain adaptable and have a positive outlook.
  4. Relationship management — the ability to work within a team, resolve conflicts and inspire leadership.

How to Achieve Emotional Intelligence

Think about emotional intelligence in terms of a workout. If you wanted to run a marathon or enter a bodybuilding competition, you’d have to train. You can set goals, but if you’re like most people, you’re always going to strive to be better.

In that way, emotional intelligence is like fitness. But instead of working out your body, you’re working out your mind.

Meditation is one of the best ways to exercise your mind, but you can also start with self-awareness. Step back and take a mental note of how you handle your own emotions. Are you quick to react without thinking things through? If so, you have some room for improvement.

Meditation is such a good mental practice that it’s commonly incorporated into addiction recovery treatment and other counseling methods. But you don’t need to be in recovery to strengthen your mind.

How Meditation Increases Emotional Intelligence

rocks stacked in a zen sand garden

Did you know that meditation can actually change the physical structure of your brain? A Harvard research team came to this conclusion after studying the effects of meditation. When you start to meditate, the changes you’re likely to see can help support your emotional IQ.

  • Self-awareness — Improved self-awareness is a major goal of meditation. When you meditate, you’re training your mind to focus in the present moment. Through meditation and mindfulness, you become more aware of your thoughts and physical presence.
  • Social awarenessMeditation strengthens connections between two areas of the brain that can help improve a person’s sense of empathy: The dorsomedial prefrontal cortex and the insula. The dorsomedial prefrontal cortex manages your personal perspective while the insula is involved with inferring someone else’s state of mind. As you become more aware of other people’s feelings and motives, you will become more socially aware.
  • Self-management — Meditation can help weaken neural connections in the amygdala and strengthen connections in the prefrontal cortex. Fear and anger are triggered in the amygdala while the prefrontal cortex is responsible for rational thought and logic. The combination of reducing fear and boosting logic can help you improve levels of self-control and self-management.
  • Relationship management — Meditation can help you become more aware and in-control over your own emotions. It can also help you become more aware of other people's emotions. Through increased empathy and understanding, you can improve things like teamwork, conflict management, and empathy. As you let go of personal bias, you'll find that you're able to have more effective discussions and better relationships.

How to Practice Mindfulness Meditation

If you’ve been avoiding meditation because you think it’s difficult or the thought seems overwhelming, you may be in for a treat. While meditation may be difficult to master, it is simple to practice. You don't need any special tools or expensive equipment. All you need is the willingness and a quiet space to practice.

Sit in a quiet room, preferably facing a blank wall. This will help eliminate any distractions. Next, set a timer for 5 minutes. Your goal within these 5 minutes is to focus on the present moment. Start by noticing your breath. Feel the air as it flows through your nostrils. Don’t try to control your breaths, but just notice them. If you start thinking about anything, it’s okay. Don’t beat yourself up over it. Simply try not to follow the thought. For example, if you remember you have to get milk, try to let it end there. Don’t follow the thought down the path of what else you might need or what you’re going to use the milk for. When the timer buzzes, you have completed your session. As you feel more confident in your practice, you may increase time by 5-minute increments until you reach 30 minutes.

Note: The mindfulness meditation described here is a different practice than transcendental meditation. Both practices are very beneficial. For an article about the difference between these two practices, click here. To download our tool for Transcendental Meditation, click here.

Emotional intelligence is a trait that some of the world’s greatest leaders have in spades, and you can have it too. Strengthen your mind through meditation, and you should notice a difference in your emotional IQ.

Trevor McDonaldTrevor McDonald is a freelance writer and recovering addict and alcoholic who's been clean and sober for over 5 years. Since his recovery began, he has enjoyed using his talent for words to help spread treatment resources, addiction awareness, and general health knowledge. In his free time, you can find him working with recovering addicts or outside enjoying about any type of fitness activity imaginable.

Tags:  addiction recovery  emotional intelligence  meditation  mindfulness  wellness 

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March 11 to 17 is National Sleep Awareness Week

Posted By NWI, Wednesday, February 28, 2018

How well have you been sleeping so far this year?  According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults between the ages of 18 and 65 years old should be getting anywhere from seven to nine hours of sleep per night; so what do you average?

National Sleep Awareness WeekJoin the National Sleep Foundation in celebrating its annual Sleep Awareness Week, March 11 to 17, 2018. This year’s theme “Begin with Sleep” highlights the importance of good sleep health for individuals to best achieve their personal, family, and professional goals. The week-long “Begin with Sleep” campaign will provide valuable information about the benefits of optimal sleep and how sleep affects health, well-being, and safety. Shareable messages including an infographic, pre-written content, and social media posts using the hashtag #YourDayBeginsWithSleep will be available here.    

It may be tempting to try to edge in a couple extra hours of work or leisure in exchange for fewer hours of sleep, but is the loss of sleep really worth it?  According to the CDC, “insufficient sleep has been linked to the development and management of a number of chronic diseases and conditions, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression.”  Additionally, the American Sleep Association states that, “35% of adults report less than seven hours of sleep per night.”  With sleep deprivation becoming a more pressing issue in our fast-paced society, give your body a break and make time for some good rest.  It may save you some doctors’ visits in the future.  To learn more about sleep and sleep deprivation, or request promotional materials for sleep awareness please visit the National Sleep Foundation at 


Tags:  sleep  wellness 

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