“Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths.” – Arnold Schwarzenegger

Physical therapy is a powerful tool for managing pain, improving mobility, and regaining function after injury, surgery, or a variety of chronic conditions. Physical therapy is a multifaceted approach to healing and recovery, with the primary purpose of improving your physical function and mobility.

Through a comprehensive evaluation, skilled physical therapists identify the underlying causes of your pain or limitations. They then design a personalized treatment plan that combines various techniques, including soft tissue therapy, exercise, and education.

The objective of physical therapy is to not just address your current symptoms but also empower you to manage your condition, prevent future problems, and live a healthier, more active life. However, many misconceptions persist about what physical therapy entails.

At Santa Rosa Pain and Performance, we want to help set the record straight. So, in this article, we aim to debunk some of the most common myths about physical therapy and explain how it can benefit you.


a physical therapist helping their patient stretch their hamstring


Myth #1: Physical Therapy is Only for Athletes

This is a big misconception! While athletes often benefit from physical therapy to recover from injuries and enhance performance, it’s valuable for a broad spectrum of individuals. Here are some examples:

  • Post-Surgical Rehabilitation: Recovering from surgery often requires physical therapy to regain strength, flexibility, and range of motion.
  • Chronic Pain Management: Physical therapy can help manage chronic pain from conditions like arthritis, back pain, and headaches.
  • Injury Recovery: Physical therapists can help you heal from sprains, strains, fractures, and other musculoskeletal injuries.
  • Balance and Gait Training: Physical therapy can improve balance and coordination, reducing the risk of falls, particularly for older adults.
  • Prehabilitation: Physical therapists can assess your risk for injury and develop personalized exercise programs to prevent future problems.


Myth #2: Physical Therapy is Just About Stretching and Strengthening

While exercise plays a crucial role in physical therapy, it’s far more comprehensive. Here’s what you can expect with typical physical therapy treatment:

  • Movement Analysis and Education: Physical therapists analyze your movement patterns and identify any limitations or imbalances. They educate you on proper movements and exercises to improve your form and function.
  • Modalities: Techniques like ultrasound, electrical stimulation, and heat/cold therapy may be used to manage pain, reduce inflammation, and promote healing.
  • Functional Training: Physical therapy goes beyond basic exercises. Your program will be designed to help you regain function for everyday activities, whether it’s climbing stairs, playing with your children, or returning to work.
  • Manual Therapy Techniques: Skilled physical therapists utilize a variety of techniques to improve flexibility, relieve pain, and address muscle tension. A key component of this is soft tissue therapy. This encompasses a range of hands-on approaches that target soft tissues like muscles, tendons, ligaments, and fascia. Some common soft tissue therapy techniques include: 
  • Massage Therapy: Various massage techniques can help to relax muscle tension, improve circulation, and reduce pain.
  • Myofascial Release: This technique applies sustained pressure to trigger points (hypersensitive areas in muscles) to alleviate pain and improve flexibility.
  • Joint Mobilization: Physical therapists may use gentle manipulations to improve joint range of motion and reduce stiffness.
  • Trigger Point Therapy: Focused pressure is applied to specific trigger points to release tension and alleviate referred pain.

The Benefits of Soft Tissue Therapy in Physical Therapy

Soft tissue therapy offers a variety of benefits within a treatment program:

  • Pain Relief: By reducing muscle tension and inflammation, soft tissue therapy can significantly decrease pain, allowing you to move more freely.
  • Improved Flexibility: Soft tissue therapy techniques can help loosen tight muscles and fascia, increasing your range of motion and improving flexibility.
  • Enhanced Circulation: Massage and other soft tissue techniques promote blood flow, which delivers oxygen and nutrients to promote healing and tissue repair.
  • Reduced Scar Tissue Formation: Soft tissue therapy can help prevent excessive scar tissue formation after surgery or injury, improving mobility and function.
  • Faster Recovery: By addressing muscle tension and promoting healing, soft tissue therapy can accelerate your overall recovery process.


Myth #3: Physical Therapy is Painful

While some physical therapy exercises may cause mild discomfort as you work to regain strength and flexibility, the goal is not to cause pain. A skilled physical therapist will personalize your program to your tolerance and gradually increase difficulty as you progress.

Communication is key – let your therapist know if you experience any pain so they can adjust the treatment plan accordingly.


a physical therapist helping their patient stretch their arm and shoulder


Myth #4: I Need a Doctor’s Referral for Physical Therapy

In many states, you don’t necessarily need a referral to see a physical therapist. While a referral from your doctor allows you to use your insurance, you can often schedule an initial evaluation directly with a physical therapist.

For example, California residents do not need a doctor’s referral to see a physical therapist due to the state’s Direct Access legislation, which has been in place since 2014.


Myth #5: Physical Therapy is a Quick Fix

While some might envision physical therapy as a magic bullet that erases pain and restores function overnight, this isn’t quite realistic. The truth is, physical therapy is a collaborative journey between you and your therapist, and the timeline for achieving your goals depends on several factors:

  • Severity of Your Condition: Naturally, recovering from a complex injury or chronic condition will likely require a more extensive treatment plan compared to addressing a minor muscle strain.
  • Your Commitment to the Program: Physical therapy is an active process. The success of your treatment hinges on your commitment to following the prescribed exercises diligently and practicing self-care recommendations at home.
  • Individual Healing Rate: Everyone heals at their own pace. Factors like age, overall health, and adherence to the treatment plan can influence how quickly you see results.

Benefits Beyond Physical Recovery

Physical therapy offers more than just physical benefits. Here’s what you might experience:

  • Improved Pain Management: Physical therapy can significantly reduce pain, allowing you to participate more fully in life.
  • Increased Strength and Flexibility: Physical therapy programs can improve your overall strength and flexibility, enhancing your physical capabilities and daily activities.
  • Enhanced Balance and Coordination: Physical therapy exercises can improve balance and coordination, reducing the risk of falls and injuries.
  • Boosted Confidence: As you regain strength, mobility, and function, your confidence in your physical abilities is likely to improve.


a physical therapist touching a patient's back


Getting Started with Pain Relief at Santa Rosa Pain and Performance

At Santa Rosa Pain and Performance, we’re dedicated to providing personalized therapy and treatment that addresses your unique needs and goals.

During your initial evaluation, we’ll discuss your medical history, current symptoms, and desired outcomes. Based on this assessment, we’ll develop a customized treatment plan that combines various techniques such as Active Release Technique (ART®), Selective Functional Movement Assessment (SFMA™), and NeuroKinetic Therapy (NKT®) to optimize your recovery.

Don’t let misconceptions hold you back from experiencing the multitude of benefits physical therapy can offer. Contact Santa Rosa Pain and Performance today to schedule your initial evaluation and take the first step towards a healthier, pain-free future.

Contact us today at 707-636-4404 or book an appointment online to start your recovery process.