People getting therapy

Frequently Asked Questions About Physical Therapy

We answered these questions in the Bulletin’s column: Ask a Medical Professional

We’d also be delighted to answer your questions, so feel free to email us or come on in! We’re currently offering a free screening and we’d love for you to take us up on it!


I’m fairly familiar with chiropractic and massage, but just what is physical therapy?

Physical therapists hold a Bachelors, Masters or Doctorate degree in physical therapy. In addition to undergraduate studies, education involves two to three years of intensive medical training. PTs are able to apply their knowledge in a number of healthcare settings including: hospitals, schools, rehab centers, and orthopedic clinics handling injuries of all kinds. After schooling, therapists enroll in different continuing education programs that influence their approach to healing; each clinic and therapist has their own skill level and style.

Your physical therapist will fully evaluate your skeletal alignment, muscle strengths and weakness, poor postural habits, and range-of-motion limits following injury or surgery. He or she will direct you through a comprehensive program of recovery that empowers you to understand your body so that you can be responsible for your optimal health. Depending on your therapist, treatment includes manual techniques for massage, skeletal alignment, stretching and more. Use of ultrasound, heat, and electrical stimulation support the healing processes of your tissue. Exercise, stretching, posture, and movement education are also an important part of your learning process.

At Healing Bridge Physical Therapy, each high quality one-on-one session allows your therapist to customize your program based on your individual needs and physical presentation. Depending on your insurance, you can either request a referral from your physician or self-refer.


I’ve taking medications. Will this affect my physical therapy and does my physical therapist need to know what I’m taking?

If you take multiple medications, it is highly recommended that you keep a thorough and updated copy of your medications on you. In case of an emergency, your medical team will need to know what medications you are taking to ensure proper assistance. This list will also become very useful and valuable to any new medical practitioners that you may encounter, such as your physical therapist at Healing Bridge Physical Therapy.

We’ve created a handy worksheet to help you list your medications. Click here to see or print it. Thank you in advance for taking the time to complete this list and have it ready for your first appointment.


Every once in a while I used to get this pain in my back. I really hurt it last summer gardening and I was down with pain for about a week. I returned to work and my regular exercise program three times a week, but I still have this nagging pain in my low back. I consider myself to be in basically good health with regular exercise. How would physical therapy help me?

Your initial visit to a physical therapist involves a thorough evaluation of your back. This includes assessment of your pain symptoms and activities that increase or decrease your pain. In addition, you’ll receive an in-depth evaluation of your posture, movements, muscle strength and length, and asymmetries. From your evaluation your physical therapist will choose from a wide range of treatment interventions to best facilitate your full recovery. This may involve soft tissue massage to stretch and relax the tightened muscles, specific exercises and stretches to bring balance to your posture and movement, and noninvasive techniques to support full spine alignment.

Physical therapists also emphasize educating you so that you can understand how the “normal” use of yourself in everyday activities has interfered with having a healthy back. Your physical therapy program will be tailored to your specific complaint, since your injury, along you’re your activities and posture even prior to getting hurt play a role in your recovery.


I have received massage, physical therapy and chiropractic adjustments for my back pain. How could the Feldenkrais Method help me where these have not?

Every day you use your body in ways that you learned when you were developing as an infant and child. These movements became programmed into your brain and body and are represented in how you hold your muscles, posture, and unconscious movement patterns. Through the Feldenkrais Method you have the potential to experience yourself differently. You will learn to identify patterns so that you can access new organizations of movement. This can relieve the habitual stress on your system and offer you \new awareness about how you move, use your back, and experience yourself in your everyday environment.


I was recently rear-ended in a car accident. It wasn’t very painful until the next day. Since then the pain in my neck and shoulders has continued to hurt for several days and I’ve also developed a constant headache. What should I do?

It is important that your symptoms be documented with a physician as soon as possible. Begin by consulting with your primary physician, or if you don’t have one, go to a drop-in medical center. Commonly the symptoms of whiplash can take up to 24 hours to show up. The severity of the whiplash can depend on many factors. Research has shown that the speed and damage to the vehicle are not indicators of how much physical injury may have occurred. Most injuries of this sort resolve within a few weeks, and after the first week you should begin to notice consistent improvements. However, if the pain persists or gets worse (such as the onset of headaches), it is appropriate to ask your doctor for a referral to physical therapy or to self-refer.

Therapy can help decrease the inflammation, relax the muscle spasms, and support your healing by teaching you about posture, body mechanics, exercise, and stretching. Often muscles that go into spasm can create asymmetry and stress on your spine. Your Healing Bridge physical therapist is trained in gentle, noninvasive techniques to bring your spine and muscles into alignment so your healing can progress smoothly and without complications.


I recently strained a back muscle lifting something heavy. I want to go to physical therapy, but I don’t have a primary care physician. What can I do?

Many PTs in Oregon are licensed to treat without referral. This designation, called “direct access,” means you can receive treatment from a qualified physical therapist for up to 30 days without a physician referral. To become certified for direct access, your therapist has completed an 18-hour medical screening course, passed an examination and completed a required number of continuing education hours. This certification is renewed every three years. There is also legislation being introduced to eliminate the 30-day restriction, as physical therapists are the only ancillary providers who have this requirement, and yet are equally qualified as—and sometimes more qualified than—other non-physician providers.

Your physical therapist has been thoroughly trained to evaluate and treat disorders and injuries of the movement systems, which include your muscles, joints, nervous system and connective tissues. Ask if your therapist is certified to practice without referral and call to set up your first appointment. At the time of your first visit, your therapist will help you decide on the course of action to best recover from your injury, and is trained to refer you to a physician if there are indicators that your condition goes beyond a straight forward strain. If you have questions, you can always call our physical therapy clinic, and one of our therapists can speak with you and guide you in the appropriate direction.


My doctor has recommended physical therapy for my neck pain, but how do I chose the right therapist for me?

Most physical therapists participate in extensive continuing education from year to year. Courses are different in content and emphasis. Additionally, individual physical therapists have their own style, philosophy, and approach. The clinic that your PT works in will also influence the care he or she provides for you. Be sure to call around and ask some questions. The receptionist may be able to answer all your questions, but it is appropriate to ask to speak with a physical therapist as well. Some questions you might want to ask:

  • Is there a physical therapist at your clinic that specializes in my problem?
  • How many therapists will be treating me? (A team of 2 usually works well).
  • Will I be working with a licensed physical therapist and assistant, or do you employ aides to do a portion of the care?
  • How long do you schedule treatments for?
  • How does the therapist know what my doctor wants?
  • What can I expect at my first visit?
  • How do I know what my insurance pays?
  • Is there a payment plan available?
  • Why should I choose your clinic?


Can I use both physical therapy AND massage?

Massage and physical therapy go hand-in-hand towards a holistic approach to healing. By integrating multiple techniques, your treatment session is customized and your healing accelerates. Techniques such as manual therapy, massage, Feldenkrais , and specific therapeutic exercises will combine and complement each other to create the best possible treatment plan for you.

The integration of massage into the physical therapy treatment process is a valuable healing component. By working with both your physical therapist and massage therapist, you benefit from two areas of expertise and the wonderful blend of knowledge and understanding created. A massage therapist’s skills are enhanced by the advanced expertise of a physical therapist who can provide direction about what will most benefit your healing.

Massage helps your body feel better so you feel able and ready to go. Massage also reduces pain and inflammation, increases blood flow, decreases muscle spasms and helps with taut or tender fibers. It promotes overall relaxation and helps increase range of motion. This assists you in reaching optimal health.

Another benefit is body awareness. You can be told time and again about what is causing your pain, but when you feel where the pain is coming from via a massage, you can pinpoint it consciously and work to dissolve it. Along with helping to find sources of pain, massage will help you and your body begin to understand what it is like to feel good again.