Five common myths corrected about physical therapy

Five common myths corrected about physical therapy

October is National Physical Therapy month, a time of the year when physical therapists like Gopal T. Raghunath, PT MS, DPT, CSCS of Buffalo Grove Physical Therapy & Sports Rehabilitation, P.C. celebrate their profession while educating others about the role physical therapy plays in improving the health and vitality of their patients — and of health care in general.

In doing so, Dr. Raghunath points out that while physical therapy’s roles are both broad and diverse, several misconceptions still exist about what physical therapy is, what it isn’t, and the various ways it can help people improve the health and lives of people of all stages in life.

“When a lot of people think about physical therapy, they think rehabilitation. But that’s just a part of what we do,” said Dr. Raghunath, owner/clinic director of Buffalo Grove Physical Therapy & Sports Rehabilitation. “Physical therapists can improve the lives of people of all ages dealing with a number of common ailments … even people dealing with no ailments at all.”

According to the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), physical therapists (PTs) are highly educated and licensed health care professionals who can help patients reduce pain and improve or restore mobility. Sure, this includes those who’ve suffered musculoskeletal injuries, Dr. Raghunath says, but it’s much more than that.

Here five common misconceptions about physical therapy:

I need to be injured to see a physical therapist.

Post-injury and post-surgical rehabilitation is just a sliver of what they do. It’s common for a physical therapist to treat other common ailments like balance issues, headaches, pelvic pain, chronic pain, incontinence, and basic joint and muscle pain. They also work with clients
on injury prevention and athletic enhancement.

It’s going to hurt!

Physical therapists don’t subscribe to the philosophy of “no pain, no gain.” In fact, they’re specifically trained to work within your pain threshold to ensure your gains in movement and strength are safe and incremental.

Surgery and/or medication are better options.

Both have their place, but multiple studies have shown that physical therapy is more effective and safer than such common options as prescription painkillers and common surgeries for lumbar spinal stenosis, degenerative disk disease, and even meniscus tears.

PT is expensive.

Physical therapy is a real bargain when compared with surgery. But more than that, studies have shown that for the treatment of one of the most common ailments, non-specific back pain, patients can save up to 60 percent on their medical bills if they visit a physical therapist early in their treatment.

I can’t see a PT without a prescription or referral.

According to the APTA, this myth is shared by 70% of health care consumers. The truth is all 50 states allow patients to be evaluated by a PT without a physician referral, and all but Michigan allow some form of treatment or intervention without a referral or prescription.

To learn more about how physical therapy can benefit a particular ailment or condition, or for an injury, pain or movement evaluation, contact the physical therapy team at Buffalo Grove Physical Therapy & Sports Rehabilitation at (847) 520-3382.

A better movement screen for swimmers

A better movement screen for swimmers

Is the standard movement screen adequately evaluating swimmers?

The Functional Movement Screen (FMS) is indeed a valuable standard operating procedure used to rate and rank movement quality on an ordinal scale, prior to the start of a sport season, in efforts to pin-point injury risk. Per the athlete’s score, corrective exercise strategies are then prescribed to address any presenting asymmetries and/or mobility/stability deficits. However, movements examined within the FMS may be most applicable to field and court sport athletes, thus begging the question — should there be screens that capture movement complexities respective to one’s sport?

Take swimming for example, which involves many intricate motions through the shoulder girdle and core, while demanding high degrees of hip, knee, and ankle mobility. Accordingly, in efforts to bridge this gap, a movement screen specific for swimmers, would not only help spot dysfunctional patterns and potential injury risk, but provide vital feedback to optimize energy efficient stroke mechanics and conditioning platforms as well as minimize and/or prevent injuries that could otherwise sideline one’s season, and instead maximize the longevity of their competitive career.

No matter what kind of athlete you are, your training, preventative care, and rehabilitation following injury should take into account the complex motions of your sport. We’ll be discussing specialized movement screens right here on the BGPT blog!

Studies prove physical therapy more effective than drugs for chronic pain

Studies prove physical therapy more effective than drugs for chronic pain

During a time researchers and health care professionals are working collaboratively to re-evaluate the safety and efficacy of prescription drugs to address chronic pain, Gopal T. Raghunath, PT MS, DPT, CSCS, owner/clinic director of Buffalo Grove Physical Therapy & Sports Rehabilitation, P.C., says physical therapy offers a safer and more cost-efficient remedy for such conditions.

The topic is indeed appropriate as we dive into Pain Awareness Month, an annual effort by the American Chronic Pain Association (ACPA).

A staggering 25 million Americans suffer from chronic pain, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). A January 2015 report notes physical therapy as a suitable, non-pharmaceutical alternative for chronic pain management.

“Movement is in essence medicine for both the mind and body, and is indeed a healthier choice for those suffering from chronic pain,” said Dr. Raghunath.

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), in its newly released guidelines as of March, specifically highlights physical therapy as a safe and more effective treatment measure for chronic pain compared with opiates such as Vicodin and OxyContin. Additionally, the CDC reports that opioid use led to more than 28,000 deaths in 2014 alone.

Unlike acute pain, attributed to a specific ailment such as burn or fracture, and spanning from the time of injury to approximately 7 to 10 days, chronic pain is discomfort persisting for 3 months or more and carries an emotional component. The ACPA describes chronic pain as “pain that continues when it should not.”

“Individuals with chronic pain can begin to feel hopeless and, in turn, desperate for any solution, considering they have been suffering for a long period with minimal to no relief in symptoms,” said Dr. Raghunath. “Thus, it’s not surprising that prescription drugs including opiates may at first seem like a great option, though for many can be addicting. However, the side-effects can be harmful and, in turn, an unfavorable long-term solution.”

Through appropriate postural education, ergonomics, body awareness training, flexibility, strength and cardiovascular conditioning, physical therapists are licensed and trained specialists who evaluate, identify and assess the causes of chronic pain. Based on his/her physical findings, a physical therapist will customize a plan of care to address one’s condition, says Dr. Raghunath.

Think safety when choosing, wearing a backpack

Think safety when choosing, wearing a backpack

With summer slowly winding down and fall approaching, back-to-school time is just around the corner. For all parents making the trip with their child to the nearest office supply store, please be extra careful when choosing a back pack. From homework and tests to extracurricular activities, students already shoulder a hefty load particularly during this time of year. Thus, their backpacks should be least of their worries.

“Unfortunately however, due to either lack of awareness, or disinterest, or both, poor backpack ergonomics coupled with excessive weight content, and faulty posture, can pose a health risk to children and students of all ages including fatigue, muscle soreness, shoulder/neck/back pain, which may result in nerve root irritation and diminished strength/sensation,” said Gopal T. Raghunath, PT MS, DPT, CSCS, owner/clinic director at Buffalo Grove Physical Therapy & Sports Rehabilitation, P.C.

The American Occupational Therapy Association estimates that approximately 79 million students across the U.S. carry school backpacks. Among
these, nearly 22,000 strains, sprains, dislocations, and fractures, due to improper backpack use, were reported by medical providers in 2013, according to the U.S. Consumer Safety Commission.

“Many children stuff and lug nearly all of their books for each class in their backpacks, rather than simply carrying the essentials, and with no added support features,” said Dr. Raghunath. It’s important that the backpack contains both sternum and wait level straps to ensure even load distribution. According to The National Safety Council, most kids carry more than they should: up to a quarter of their total bodyweight.

While weight is indeed a key factor, the way backpacks are designed, worn and lifted, and can also most definitely contribute to discomfort, pain and injury in students. The good news: much of this is preventable.

Accordingly, therapists at the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) and American Occupational Association (AOTA) offer the following tips for kids, parents and teachers:

Select the Right Pack: Choose a pack that’s no larger than 75 percent of the length of your child’s back. Wide straps keep the pack from digging into the shoulders, and a padded back adds comfort and protection.

Lighten the Load: A child’s backpack at its fullest should be no heavier than 10 percent of his/her bodyweight.

Distribute the Weight: Use multiple pockets and compartments to distribute the weight of the items inside the pack. Keep the heavier items closer to your child’s back, and the lighter and sharper objects away from the back.

Lift with Your Legs & Keep a Neutral Spine: Teach your child proper lifting mechanics, which includes keeping core muscles braced tight and trunk in a neutral position, while driving with the legs. This will help minimize and/or prevent injuries and maintain a healthy spine.

Adjust & Carry: Insist your child always carry the backpack using both shoulder straps, including the sternum and waist straps. Adjust the shoulder straps so the backpack rests snugly against the back and hangs no more the 4 inches below the waist.

Watch for Warning Signals: Signs that your child’s backpack is too heavy or not fitting properly include difficulty picking up and/or putting on the pack, pain as well as tingling/numbness in the upper/lower extremities when wearing the pack, strap marks left behind the shoulders, and postural alterations while wearing the backpack.

Seek Advice from a Physical Therapist: Physical therapists are licensed clinicians trained to treat existing ailments, reduce pain and restore mobility, as well as identify dysfunctional movement patterns to help prevent injuries from occurring.

The clinical team at Buffalo Grove Physical Therapy & Sports Rehabilitation, P.C. will conduct a thorough movement screen and ergonomic assessment to help provide valuable suggestions on which backpack is most appropriate for your child to prevent injuries from occurring so he/she can start off the school year on the right foot.

Parents: Be aware of the signs of sports injuries

Parents: Be aware of the signs of sports injuries

As fall approaches and student-athletes prepare to head back to the practice fields, injury prevalence is sure to be on the rise. Despite concerted efforts to minimize and/or prevent injuries, it is simply not possible to altogether eliminate them from sports. Additionally, to ensure that injuries are diagnosed and treated accurately, parents/guardians must play a crucial role in identifying signs of impending ailments that may not always be visible during training or competition, but which manifest days and weeks later, says Gopal T. Raghunath, PT MS, DPT, CSCS – owner/clinic director of Buffalo Grove Physical Therapy & Sports Rehabilitation, P.C.

Whether it be a concern about playing time, or simply feeling that they can “tough it out,” student-athletes rarely admit when they’re hurt or injured, Dr. Raghunath points out. However, playing through the pain instead of obtaining timely treatment can indeed create further harm and hamper his/her season. Thus, parents/guardians who appreciate and value their child’s commitment to his/her sport should be clued into the obvious signs of an injury (swelling/pain/diminished function), which in turn will assist them in learning to distinguish between general posttraining/competition
soreness, from a specific condition, as Dr. Raghunath further asserts.

Signs of potential injury to watch for include:

  • Headaches, lightheadedness and/or dizziness – may indicate a concussion
  • Limping/difficulty standing or climbing/descending stairs – may indicate instability due to a ligament tear
  • Upper & Lower extremity tingling/numbness/weakness – may indicate nerve root irritation due to a disc herniation from spinal joint malalignment
  • Difficulty sleeping due to pain – may indicate tumor/neoplasm
  • Sudden sharp pain during training/competition/daily activities – may indicate a torn tendon or loose cartilage caught between joint surfaces


According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), approximately 30 million children and adolescents in the U.S. participate in youth sports. Just the high school-aged students within this group alone account for nearly 2 million injuries and 500,000 doctor visits. Of those under the age of 14, 3.5 million receive medical treatment for a sports related injury.

“Thus, the ‘no pain no gain’ motto should have no place in any athlete’s vocabulary, as this practice can eventually end one’s athletic career,” says Dr. Raghunath. “If your child or teen is exhibiting any signs/symptoms as mentioned above, it’s important to encourage them to seek appropriate consultation as soon as possible.”

In many cases, visiting a physical therapist, following medical examination and diagnostic imaging, is a suitable starting point. Trained to conduct comprehensive sports injury evaluation and assessment, clinicians at Buffalo Grove Physical Therapy & Sports Rehabilitation will triage the injury and, if necessary, provide appropriate treatment.