Physical Therapy Benefits: 15 Surprising Conditions That Can Be Treated with PT

physical therapy room with patients, therapists, and a variety of free weights, bands, and therapy balls

What comes to mind when you think of physical therapy? If you’re like most people, you picture an elderly person doing specific exercises to recover from knee-replacement surgery, or a pro athlete working with their team’s medical staff after a nasty injury.

It’s true that physical therapy plays a huge role in recovering from surgery or injury—but the benefits of physical therapy stretch far beyond this narrow band of examples. PT can affect nearly every inch of the body, and that means it can be used to treat everyday medical issues that are far less dramatic than what usually comes to mind. In this article we’ll highlight 15 relatively common conditions that can benefit from a properly-implemented physical therapy plan.

15 Everyday conditions that can benefit from physical therapy

While prominent examples might make you think physical therapists are primarily focused on knee ligaments and rotator cuffs, their training covers much more.

“[Physical therapists] receive a ton of education about the human body and can treat conditions from head to toe and throughout the lifespan, from neonatal to hospice,” says Dr. Nick Salinas, owner of the online physical therapy platform Functional Movement Therapy.

It’s because of this extensive training that physical therapists have the medical expertise it takes to treat a wide variety of conditions like these.

1. Vertigo

Vertigo is a sensation of dizziness or spinning that commonly happens when “crystals in the inner ear dislodge and create a miscommunication between your brain and body,” says Dr. Karena Wu, owner of ActiveCare Physical Therapy. PT can correct this in just a few sessions by using a method called the Epley Maneuver, in which patients turn their heads a specific way to return these calcified ear crystals to where they belong.

2. Headaches

Millions of people suffer from migraines and headaches, but many don’t realize that PT could help ease their pain. “Headaches that do not respond to medicine or are on one side of the head can actually stem from your upper cervical spine,” Wu says. While this may not be the most common root cause of headaches, physical therapists can treat this issue by locating the joint that’s causing problems and help return it to its proper positioning.

3. Jaw pain

Jaw pain is often caused by a condition called TMJ, in which the jaw becomes out of alignment and causes pain—or even lockjaw. “By treating the neck and jaw joints, motor control of the jaw, and the muscles which help you to chew, patients can reach full resolution of this condition within a handful of treatments,” Salinas says.

4. Balance problems

A variety of conditions can cause trouble balancing, including Parkinson’s Disease, neurological conditions and car accidents. PT may not be able to fully cure these conditions, but it can relieve some of the imbalance patients experience. Physical therapists can help patients “regain proper orientation to midline,” says physical therapist and trauma consultant Dr. Alice Kerby. “Restoring an individual's balance restores them to a higher quality of life.”

5. Back pain

Most people experience some form of back pain in their lifetime. Physical therapists treat back pain by “finding the root cause of your back pain so you can work on preventing this pain from returning,” says Dr. Nicole Lombardo, physical therapist at Back Intelligence. Physical therapists can use massage, stretching exercises and posture adjustments to improve back pain.

6. Urinary incontinence

Physical therapy can be used to treat pelvic floor problems, such as urinary incontinence, in both men and women. “Training the pelvic floor to work during all activities, like getting back to running, playing sports, weight lifting or even sneezing, is important,” Salinas says. In addition to incontinence issues, PT can also help with other pelvic floor conditions such as painful intercourse or muscle weakness after pregnancy.

7. Bad posture

Bad posture can negatively affect your mobility, cause back pain and even slow down your digestion! Physical therapists can identify the cause of their patient’s poor posture, from improperly lifting heavy items to the increasingly common “tech neck” that’s caused from looking down at screens. Then they can assign exercises and stretches designed to return those muscles to their proper position, allowing patients to stand tall again.

8. Concussions

“Following a head injury from a car accident or sports, PT can play a vital role in the management and treatment of concussions as well as more severe brain injuries,” Kerby says. A physical therapist will choose a treatment based on their patient’s individual concussion injury and develop a plan to gradually build up their tolerance to stimuli that can be triggering, like bright lights or rapid movement.

9. Plantar fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is heel pain caused by stress, tears or inflammation of the plantar fascia ligament. While other treatments focus on reducing pain through the use of ice or medicine, PT can improve the root cause of this condition. The plantar fascia ligament can be stretched and strengthened with specific PT exercises, allowing it to become more flexible and reduce stress and pain.

10. Arthritis

Arthritis is a common condition that causes painful swelling of joints. Thankfully, PT can make a difference. “Passive movements and stretches to a joint can help ease arthritic pain that is caused by bone grinding on bone,” Lombardo says. She adds that resistive strength training movements can also build muscle around the joints, which helps stabilize and support them.

11. Post-operative care

PT is necessary for post-op care after many types of surgeries, not just things like knee or hip replacement. “As your body works on healing itself, muscles can become weak and tight,” Lombardo says. For example, many patients require PT after an appendectomy. “Even though this is a pretty non-invasive surgery in your abdomen, PT can help make sure that as you heal, excess scar tissue doesn't form and your abdominals stay strong.”

12. Constipation

Most people who experience constipation are handed stool softeners or laxatives and are advised to alter their diets. Many patients don’t realize that PT could help, too! Physical therapists can conduct abdominal massages that have been shown to improve constipation in patients who hadn’t had any luck with typical medications.

13. Carpal tunnel syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a lurking fear for anyone who uses their hands for repetitive movements, such as typing, woodworking or knitting. Activities like these place stress on a nerve in the wrist, leading to pain, tingling and numbness in the hand. PT is one of the only treatments for carpal tunnel that doesn’t involve surgery. Physical therapists can provide specific exercises to reduce the strain on the nerve that’s involved in this syndrome.

14. Pediatric developmental delays

Pediatricians are on the lookout for children to reach developmental milestones around certain ages, such as walking around 12 months. Sometimes children fall behind in their developing motor skills, and physical therapists are there to help. A pediatric physical therapist can evaluate a child’s motor skills and provide exercises and activities that are both fun and designed to help growing children reach their full levels of physical mobility.

15. Injury prevention

The best time to visit a physical therapist is often before an injury occurs! “The impact on our country's health and overall healthcare cost would be extraordinary if physical therapists were used as a first line of preventative medicine,” Salinas says. “I advocate for yearly movement screenings for my patients in order to prevent injuries from occurring in the first place.” By discussing risk factors and educating patients about relevant stretches and exercises, preventative PT can save patients from future injuries.

Is a career in physical therapy in your future?

Were you surprised by some of the conditions on this list? Now that your eyes have been opened to the many benefits of physical therapy, you might be interested in learning more about medical professionals who are improving the quality of life for their patients.

It takes a PT team to treat patients, including physical therapist assistants. Find out more about this career with these 7 Signs You Should Consider Becoming a Physical Therapist Assistant.

About the author

Ashley Brooks

Ashley is a freelance writer for Collegis education who writes student-focused articles on behalf of Rasmussen University. She believes in the power of words and knowledge and enjoys using both to encourage others on their learning journeys

female writer

Related Content

Related Content

This piece of ad content was created by Rasmussen University to support its educational programs. Rasmussen University may not prepare students for all positions featured within this content. Please visit for a list of programs offered. External links provided on are for reference only. Rasmussen University does not guarantee, approve, control, or specifically endorse the information or products available on websites linked to, and is not endorsed by website owners, authors and/or organizations referenced. Rasmussen University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, an institutional accreditation agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

logo-accreditation-acen logo-accreditation-ccne chart-credential-laddering-associates-bachelors-masters 0 Credits 90 Credits 180 Credits 48 Credits Start Here HIGH SCHOOL GRADS Start Here TRANSFER STUDENTS Start Here SECOND DEGREE PURSUERS End Here ASSOCIATE'S DEGREE Start Here MASTER'S DEGREE PURSUERS End Here BACHELOR'S DEGREE End Here MASTER'S DEGREE chart-credential-laddering-associates-bachelors 0 Credits Start Here HIGH SCHOOL GRADS Start Here TRANSFER STUDENTS 90 Credits Start Here SECOND DEGREE PURSUERS End Here ASSOCIATE'S DEGREE 180 Credits End Here BACHELOR'S DEGREE chart-credential-laddering-msn chart-credential-laddering-nursing-programs chart-credential-laddering-nursing DNP MSN RN to BSN LPN to RN Bridge Accelerated BSN Professional Nursing ADN Practical Nursing Diploma Pre-Licensure Post-Licensure icon-colored-outline-bank icon-colored-outline-certificate icon-colored-outline-circle-dollar-sign icon-colored-outline-folder-search icon-colored-outline-hand-heart icon-colored-outline-head-blocks icon-colored-outline-head-cog icon-colored-outline-head-heart icon-colored-outline-health-plus-leaves icon-colored-outline-hospital icon-colored-outline-lifelong-learning icon-colored-outline-light-bulb-analytics icon-colored-outline-location-pin icon-colored-outline-magnifying-glass icon-colored-outline-monitor-healthcare icon-colored-outline-monitor-paper-search icon-colored-outline-nurse-rays icon-colored-outline-padlock-shield icon-colored-outline-person-presenter-screen icon-colored-outline-scales ras-logo-flame ras-logo-horizontal ras-logo-stacked icon-colored-advance icon-colored-arrows-cross-curve icon-colored-briefcase-star icon-colored-build icon-colored-bulb-analytics icon-colored-certificate icon-colored-continual-development icon-colored-duo-chatbox icon-colored-folder-mortarboard icon-colored-forward-ribbon icon-colored-gears-clock icon-colored-globe-pen icon-colored-growth icon-colored-hand-bubble icon-colored-hand-stars icon-colored-hands-gear icon-colored-head-blocks icon-colored-head-cog icon-colored-health-plus-leaves icon-colored-hospital-building icon-colored-laptop-cbe-skyscraper icon-colored-laptop-checkmark icon-colored-laptop-webpage icon-colored-location-map icon-colored-location-pin icon-colored-monitor-paper-scan icon-colored-mortarboard-dollar icon-colored-national icon-colored-people-chat-bubbles icon-colored-person-cheer-star icon-colored-person-laptop-checkboxes icon-colored-person-screen-instructor icon-colored-person-whiteboard icon-colored-phone-chatbox icon-colored-police-light icon-colored-prep icon-colored-presenter icon-colored-regional icon-colored-save-time icon-colored-shirt-hat icon-colored-skyscraper icon-colored-state icon-colored-student-centered icon-colored-support icon-colored-world-experience icon-triangle-arrow-up-plant icon-triangle-calendar-pencil icon-triangle-clock-rotating-arrows icon-triangle-display-gears icon-triangle-hand-right-speech-bubble icon-triangle-laptop-coding-brackets icon-triangle-mortarboard icon-triangle-paper-ribbon icon-triangle-person-cheer-star icon-triangle-person-juggle icon-triangle-triple-people-chat-bubble icon-modality-campus icon-modality-field icon-modality-online icon-modality-residential icon-arrow icon-bank icon-camera icon-filter icon-general-chart icon-general-connect icon-general-degree icon-general-discuss icon-general-email icon-general-find icon-general-hat icon-general-heart icon-general-laptop-building icon-general-laptop icon-general-leader icon-general-map icon-general-money icon-general-paperwork icon-general-people icon-general-phone icon-general-speak-out icon-head-heart icon-info-circle icon-mail-forward icon-mglass icon-play-solid icon-quote-mark-left icon-quote-mark-right icon-scales icon-share-square-o icon-simple-chat icon-simple-desktop icon-simple-find icon-simple-hamburger icon-simple-phone icon-spinner icon-tag icon-testimonial-quotes icon-util-checkbox-white icon-util-checkbox icon-util-checked-white icon-util-checked icon-util-chevron-down icon-util-chevron-left icon-util-chevron-right icon-util-chevron-up icon-util-circle-arrow-down icon-util-circle-dot icon-util-language-switch icon-util-loading icon-util-open-window-link icon-util-pdf-link icon-util-refresh icon-util-x rebrand-arrows icon-social-facebook-colored icon-social-facebook-square-colored icon-social-facebook-square icon-social-facebook icon-social-google-plus-square icon-social-google-plus icon-social-instagram-colored icon-social-instagram icon-social-linkedin-square-colored icon-social-linkedin-square icon-social-linkedin icon-social-pinterest-p-colored icon-social-pinterest-p icon-social-twitter-colored icon-social-twitter-square icon-social-twitter icon-social-youtube-play-colored icon-social-youtube-play graduate-cap-star-coin hand-coin hand-heart nurse-stethoscope-rays card-send-smile person-yoga-pose suitcase-star