A new year means a new commitment to take care of those nagging aches

Steve Ryland has heard it all before: promises to take care of those aching joints, resolutions to stick to the regimen the doctor – and probably a loved one or two – has been on your case about since well before the holidays. But putting it off only makes the problem worse and a little rehabilitation under the guidance of experts may be just the thing you need.

That means physical therapy, which is defined as “a licensed health care profession that specializes in the treatment of musculoskeletal and neurological conditions,” through therapeutic exercise, manual therapy and massage, as well as the use of various modalities, such as heat, cold, electrical stimulation and ultrasound. The idea is to get the patient back to the level at which he or she functioned before an injury.

“Most musculoskeletal and neurological conditions can be treated through physical therapy, from pain, fractures, total joint replacements and sprains and strains to Parkinson’s disease and stroke,” says Ryland, who owns Beachside Physical Therapy, which operates from five locations in Brevard County.

Physical therapy may also help prevent injuries – and surgeries –in some cases, including that bane of Brevardians, the osteoarthritic knee. According to the American Physical Therapy Association a combination of manual physical therapy and supervised exercise can delay or prevent the need for surgery. Water walking, swimming and flexibility exercises work best to help patients avoid surgery

Ryland also adds that physical therapy is not necessarily difficult to obtain: “Florida is a direct access state, so you don’t need a doctor’s referral, although some insurance companies insist on it.”

What to look for in a physical therapy practice:

— Insistence on information and background. “We do complete fitness screening, and a medical history and screening,” Ryland says.

— Diversity of problems treated and issues addressed. For example, Beachside Physical Therapy has nutritionists on staff to advise patients about diet and exercise.

— Willingness by staff members to educate patients as well as treat them.

— Absolute professionalism in all aspects of operation. “We’re not a gym, not a place where you can walk in and get on the equipment. We have licensed, trained professionals . . .  with many services to offer,” Ryland says.

Therapy facts:

— According to theAmerican Physical Therapy Association, physical therapist-designed exercise programs can reduce the risk of injuries in athletes by 41 percent;

— “Surgery is no more effective than physical therapy and medical management for osteoarthritis of the knee,” according to the New England Journal of Medicine.

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