Eight Common Issues You Did Not Know Your Physical Therapist Could Treat!

Physical therapy is commonly associated with recovering from physical injuries or surgeries, such as those caused by car accidents, sports injuries, or joint replacements. Many people also associate physical therapy with helping individuals regain mobility, strength, and range of motion after an injury or surgery. However, it is important to note that physical therapy has the potential to offer benefits that extend beyond just injury rehabilitation. Physical therapy can effectively treat a wide range of conditions and ailments that may surprise many people.

Dizziness and Vertigo

Physical therapy can treat inner ear problems that cause dizziness and vertigo. The specific treatment approach varies depending on the underlying cause of the symptoms, but here are some common methods used by physical therapists:

  • Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy (VRT): VRT is a specialized form of therapy that focuses on improving the vestibular system’s function, which is responsible for balance and spatial orientation. It typically involves exercises/activities to promote adaptation, habituation, and compensation for vestibular dysfunction.
  • Canalith Repositioning Maneuvers: Canalith repositioning maneuvers, such as the Epley or Semont maneuvers, are techniques used to treat benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) caused by displaced calcium crystals in the inner ear. These maneuvers involve a series of head and body movements to guide the crystals back to their position within the inner ear.
  • Balance Training: Physical therapists may utilize various balance exercises to help improve balance control and reduce dizziness. These exercises include standing on different surfaces, performing weight-shifting movements, and challenging your balance in difficult positions.
  • Gait Training: Physical therapists provide gait training if dizziness affects a person’s walking ability. This involves assessing posture, coordination, and balance issues to help improve stability and reduce dizziness.

Tension Headaches/Migraines

Physical therapy can treat tension headaches and migraines by addressing muscular imbalances, postural issues, and tension in the neck and shoulder muscles. Here are some common treatments used by physical therapists:

  • Posture and Ergonomic Assessment: Physical therapists recommend proper alignment, proper posture at workstations, and modifications to daily activities, such as cooking or cleaning, to reduce strain on the head, neck, and shoulders.
  • Manual Therapy: Manual therapy can help reduce muscle tension and relieve headache symptoms. These may include gentle joint mobilizations, soft tissue mobilization, trigger point release, and stretching exercises.
  • Exercise and Stretching: Physical therapists prescribe exercises and stretches to improve posture, strengthen weakened muscles, and promote flexibility. These exercises focus on the neck, shoulders, and upper back. Strengthening exercises support proper alignment and reduce muscle imbalances contributing to headaches.
  • Relaxation Techniques:  Deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, and guided imagery help promote relaxation to reduce headache frequency and intensity.
  • Education and Lifestyle Modifications: Lifestyle modifications to help prevent headaches include sleep hygiene, hydration, and dietary considerations.
  • Postural Re-education: Poor posture habits are addressed by teaching correct alignment and providing strategies to maintain good posture. This can help reduce muscle tension and relieve headache symptoms.
  • Modalities: Various modalities, such as heat or cold therapy, electrical stimulation, ultrasound, or low-level laser therapy, may also be added to treatment sessions.

Pelvic Floor Dysfunction

Another condition treatable with physical therapy is Pelvic Floor Dysfunction. This includes incontinence, pain, pelvic organ prolapse, and conditions experienced after birth. Some of the techniques used to treat these issues include:

  • Pelvic Floor Muscle Training: Physical therapists teach patients how to properly contract and relax the pelvic floor muscles. This may involve exercises such as Kegels, where patients learn to strengthen and control the pelvic floor muscles.
  • Biofeedback: Physical therapists often use biofeedback techniques to help patients gain awareness and control over their pelvic floor muscles. During a biofeedback session, sensors are placed on the pelvic area to provide feedback on muscle activity.
  • Manual Therapy: Hands-on techniques address muscle tightness, trigger points, scar tissue, and other soft tissue restrictions in the pelvic floor. These techniques include myofascial release, trigger point release, and joint mobilizations to improve muscle function and alleviate pain or tension.
  • Bladder and Bowel Training: Physical therapists provide education and guidance on healthy bladder and bowel habits, including techniques for proper voiding and bowel movements. In addition, patients also learn about common dietary triggers and proper fluid intake patterns.
  • Relaxation Techniques: Stress and tension can contribute to pelvic floor dysfunction. Physical therapists may teach relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, and mindfulness techniques.
  • Education and Behavioral Strategies: Physical therapists provide education on pelvic floor anatomy, function, and strategies for improving pelvic floor health. This includes advice on proper body mechanics, posture, lifting techniques, and lifestyle modifications.
  • Postural and Movement Corrections: Physical therapists assess any postural or movement patterns that may contribute to pelvic floor dysfunction. They guide proper alignment, body mechanics, and movement patterns to reduce strain on the pelvic floor muscles.

TMJ Disorder

Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder is a condition that can cause pain, clicking, and popping in the jaw, and can be improved through manual therapy techniques, exercises, and education. Check out these common treatments for TMJ disorder:

  • Manual Therapy: Physical therapists use hands-on techniques to address muscle tension, joint restrictions, and tissue imbalances in the jaw, neck, and surrounding areas. These may include gentle mobilizations, soft tissue massage, myofascial release, and trigger point therapy to reduce pain and improve jaw mobility.
  • Jaw Exercises: Physical therapists prescribe specific exercises to strengthen and stretch jaw, face, and neck muscles, such as opening and closing exercises, tongue and lip exercises, and stretching of the jaw muscles.
  • Posture and Body Mechanics: Physical therapists assess posture and body mechanics, as poor alignment and movement patterns can contribute to TMJ disorders. They guide proper posture, head, and neck alignment, and ergonomic modifications to reduce strain on the jaw joint and muscles.
  • Relaxation Techniques: Stress and tension can exacerbate TMJ symptoms. Physical therapists may teach relaxation techniques like deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and biofeedback. These treatments help patients manage stress and reduce muscle tension in the jaw and surrounding areas.
  • Education and Self-Management Strategies: Physical therapists provide education on TMJ anatomy and function, as well as strategies for self-management. This may include advice on dietary modifications (avoiding hard or chewy foods), lifestyle modifications ( reducing clenching or grinding), and jaw and facial muscle relaxation techniques.
  • Modalities: Physical therapists may use heat or cold therapy, ultrasound, electrical stimulation, or low-level laser therapy to reduce pain, relax muscles, and promote healing.
  • Collaborative Care: Physical therapists often work closely with other healthcare professionals, such as dentists, oral surgeons, and orthodontists, to provide comprehensive care for TMJ disorders. This collaboration ensures a holistic approach and optimal outcomes for the patient.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is characterized by fatigue, exercise intolerance, and deconditioning. Physical therapists can play a supportive role in managing some of the symptoms and improving overall physical function with these treatments:

  • Activity management: Physical therapists can assist individuals with CFS to balance rest and exercise to avoid exacerbating symptoms. Gradual increases in physical activity can be prescribed, tailored to the individual’s abilities and tolerance levels.
  • Exercise therapy: Low-intensity aerobic exercise, such as walking or cycling, benefits some individuals with CFS. Physical therapists can design individualized exercise programs incorporating gentle movements and gradually increasing intensity and duration.
  • Posture and body mechanics: CFS can cause musculoskeletal pain and discomfort due to prolonged periods of inactivity and deconditioning. Physical therapists can provide education on proper posture, body mechanics, and ergonomics to help reduce strain on the body during daily activities.
  • Manual therapy: Manual techniques such as gentle mobilizations, soft tissue massage, and myofascial release can alleviate discomfort and improve overall physical well-being.
  • Energy conservation techniques: Physical therapists can teach pacing activities, prioritizing tasks, incorporating rest breaks, and optimizing daily routines to minimize symptom exacerbation.
  • Education and self-management: Physical therapists play a vital role in educating individuals with CFS about their condition, its management, and coping strategies. They may guide stress management, sleep hygiene, nutrition, and relaxation techniques.


Lymphedema is when lymphatic fluid accumulates in the tissues, often affecting the arms and legs. Here are some common approaches used by physical therapists in the treatment of lymphedema:

  • Manual lymphatic drainage (MLD): MLD is a specialized massage technique that involves gentle, rhythmic movements to stimulate the lymphatic system and promote the drainage of excess fluid. Physical therapists trained in lymphedema management use specific hand movements and sequences to redirect lymph fluid to unaffected regions and facilitate its removal from the affected area.
  • Compression therapy: Compression garments, such as bandages, sleeves, or stockings, are commonly used to apply external pressure and help reduce swelling. Physical therapists can guide the proper selection, fitting, and use of compression garments to optimize their effectiveness.
  • Exercise and movement: Physical therapists design individualized exercise programs to promote movement and enhance lymphatic circulation. These programs often include aerobic exercises, strength training, and flexibility exercises. Exercise can also help improve muscle strength, joint range of motion, and overall functional capacity.
  • Skincare: Lymphedema can increase the risk of skin infections and complications. Physical therapists educate individuals on proper skin care techniques, including gentle cleansing, moisturizing, and protection against cuts, scratches, and insect bites.
  • Self-management techniques: Individuals learn self-massage, self-bandaging or garment application, exercises to promote lymphatic flow, and strategies to prevent or manage flare-ups. Education on lifestyle modifications, such as maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding prolonged sitting or standing, may also be provided.
  • Education and psychosocial support: Physical therapists address emotional and psychosocial concerns associated with lymphedema, offering support and resources to cope with the impact on daily life. They also collaborate with other healthcare professionals to provide comprehensive care.

POTS Syndrome

Physical therapy can help manage symptoms of Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) through a combination of exercise, lifestyle modifications, and education. You may receive the following types of treatment when seeing a physical therapist for POTS:

  • Exercise therapy: Physical therapists design individualized exercise programs tailored to the specific needs and abilities of individuals with POTS. These programs typically include cardiovascular conditioning exercises, such as stationary cycling or treadmill walking, to improve overall cardiovascular fitness and tolerance to upright positions.
  • Graded exercise therapy: Physical therapists employ a graded approach to exercise, gradually increasing the duration and intensity of physical activity while monitoring the individual’s heart rate and symptoms. This helps to improve the body’s tolerance to physical exertion and gradually desensitizes the autonomic nervous system, which is dysregulated in POTS.
  • Postural retraining: Physical therapists can guide proper postural alignment and movement strategies to minimize symptoms and improve postural control. Techniques such as postural exercises, balance training, and specific positioning maneuvers can enhance postural stability and reduce symptoms.
  • Breathing and relaxation techniques: Deep breathing exercises can help individuals with POTS manage symptoms such as anxiety, rapid heart rate, and shortness of breath. Physical therapists use diaphragmatic breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and other relaxation techniques to promote relaxation and reduce stress.
  • Education and lifestyle modifications: Physical therapists are crucial in educating individuals about POTS and providing guidance on lifestyle modifications. This may include fluid and salt intake recommendations, dietary modifications, avoiding triggers (such as heat or excessive standing), and maintaining regular sleep patterns.
  • Orthostatic training: Physical therapists incorporate orthostatic training, which involves gradually increasing the time spent in an upright position; this helps to improve orthostatic tolerance and reduce symptoms associated with standing.


Fibromyalgia symptoms include pain, fatigue, sleep disturbances, and cognitive difficulties. Therapeutic exercises include for Fibromyalgia may include the following:

  • Exercise therapy: Physical therapists design individualized exercise programs that improve cardiovascular fitness, muscle strength, and flexibility. Low-impact aerobic exercises such as walking, swimming, or cycling can help reduce pain, increase energy levels, and improve overall function.
  • Manual therapy: Physical therapists may utilize gentle joint mobilizations, soft tissue massage, and myofascial release to help alleviate pain, reduce muscle tension, and improve range of motion. These techniques can target specific areas of pain or tightness and provide temporary relief.
  • Pain management techniques: Physical therapists can teach individuals with fibromyalgia various pain management techniques to help them cope with their symptoms. These may include relaxation techniques, deep breathing exercises, biofeedback, or mindfulness-based approaches.
  • Education and self-management strategies: Physical therapists provide education about Fibromyalgia, including information about the condition, its symptoms, and self-management strategies. Patients and their PTs also discuss the importance of pacing activities, energy conservation techniques, sleep hygiene, and stress management.
  • Posture and body mechanics: Fibromyalgia can cause postural imbalances and increased muscle tension. Physical therapists assess an individual’s posture and movement patterns and recommend proper body mechanics and ergonomics.
  • Modalities: Physical therapists may use various modalities such as heat or cold therapy, electrical stimulation, or ultrasound to help manage pain and reduce muscle tension. These modalities are typically adjunct to other treatment approaches and can provide temporary relief.

How to receive the benefits and healing of Physical Therapy

Now that you have learned about common issues you did not know your physical therapist could treat, it is time to find out if your local PT can help you with your condition. Contact your primary care physician about incorporating physical therapy into your health treatment plan today – or contact your community PT clinic and ask them about Direct Access to a Physical Therapy care evaluation!

Click the button below to check out the American Physical Therapy Association’s Find A PT tool.

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