I have been surprised recently by the number of people who come into my office and ask me, “Will physical therapy help me?” It has been happening so much recently that I thought it would be a good idea to discuss it in this month’s post.
Physical Therapy (PT) is a very broad field that has a lot to offer to many people. The first and most obvious group are people who are in pain. Pain is a sign from your body that something isn’t quite right, a physical therapist will be able to give you a complete evaluation to determine the cause of your pain and help you resolve it. Just because you have pain in your knee doesn’t mean you necessarily have a “knee problem”, your problem could very well be coming from your hip, or your foot. Your elbow pain could be caused by weakness in your shoulder. These are all things a physical therapist is trained to evaluate and treat.
What about people who don’t have any pain? Physical therapy can help them too! Thinking of starting a new activity? Going to try running, cycling, hiking, golfing? Before you start any new activity we can evaluate you and warn you of particular imbalances in your body that could set you up for a possible injury? Thinking of playing on the local adult softball or baseball team? Did you know that hip weakness is the major cause of shoulder pain in people just starting a throwing sport? We do and that’s why a pre injury screening can be so valuable. We love working with our injured patients to get them back to the activities they love, but it would be great if we could have helped them prevent that injury in the first place.
What about people who have been playing a particular sport for a long time, and don’t have any current pain, why would they want to work with a physical therapist? The first and most obvious reason is the same as the reason we want to see
people who are starting new activities, injury prevention. Just because you have been competing in your given sport for a few years, or doing the same workout for months doesn’t mean you aren’t at risk for an injury. Why not avoid the pain and get evaluated before it starts. We can teach you things to avoid, and what to focus on to reduce your risk of future
injury. The other reason people often seek out the advice of a PT is to improve their performance. A complete physical therapy evaluation will reveal muscle imbalances and movement restrictions that could be limiting your performance and holding you
back from reaching your goals.
We are all used to going to the dentist twice a year, or at least we should be. Why do we do that? For most of us, the reason is simple, because someone told us to, and since then we have been doing it. The real reason is for prevention, along time ago it was proven that bi-annual dental check-ups can prevent much more costly and painful problems. The same is true for
our muscles and joints. Being examined by a physical therapist can identify the early warning signs of a potential problem before you have pain. Helping you correct the issue before the pain starts.
Now that you have decided you need to see a PT, how do you pick one? Obviously the easy thing for you to do is just call us! If that’s not an option for you there are a few things you should always look for in a PT. The first, and most obvious one is that you should be the only patient working with your therapist when you are there. You want to avoid a clinic, where a single
therapist is working with 4-5 people at one time. Along the same lines, you want to make sure your therapist is the one supervising your exercises, not an aid or assistant. Your technique is very important to making sure you get the most out of your therapy, and aids and assistants simply aren’t trained to supervise you the way your therapist is.
Stay away from therapists that immediately focus only on the area you are complaining about. You should receive a full body evaluation whether you are there for you knee or your elbow. As we discussed many injuries are caused by imbalances and/or restrictions in other areas of your body and it is important that your therapist looks at the whole picture. You also should avoid
therapists who rely mostly on what I like to refer to as “passive” therapy. You should not be spending time while in therapy sitting with hot packs or ice packs. You should not be left to ride an exercise bike, walk on a treadmill or use an arm bike for extended periods of time. These are fine tools for specific situations, but all too often they are simply used by clinics
to take up time and keep you busy while your therapist focuses on other patients. Last and most importantly you should always see the same therapist at each visit. Stay away from clinics where you bounce from therapist to therapist, or worse you don’t even really know who, “Your” therapist is.
The perfect clinic is one where you walk in, have a complete full body evaluation, discuss your goals with your therapist, and together come up with a plan that will help you achieve them all. Each treatment session should start with you and your therapist discussing your progress since you last met, followed by hands on therapy and specific exercises as needed.
If you are having pain, looking to start a new activity or don’t feel like you completely recovered from a prior injury contact us today. If you don’t live locally use the guidelines above to help you find an expert physical therapist in your area. You don’t need to be in pain, why not stop it before it starts.