Date: March 23, 2022
Physical Therapy: Don't wait until it's too late! Avoid pain before it even starts.
Most people only consider seeing a physical therapist after dealing with an acute injury, chronic pain, or following a surgical procedure. Not many people think of physical therapy as an opportunity for routine maintenance or as an annual check-up on how their body is doing. Whether you’re a competitive athlete, weekend warrior, or just live an active day to day life, physical therapy can help keep you functioning at your best.
A physical therapist's training prepares them to be a “movement expert." They evaluate patients through functional movement screens, complete comprehensive strength testing, assess range of motion, and conduct special tests to determine weaknesses and imbalances.
Physical therapy can be a great way to avoid pain before it even starts by preventing injury. When you see a PT, what may begin as a preventive screen can help identify an underlying dysfunction, like a muscle imbalance or limitation in range of motion. For example, one of the most common lower extremity athletic injuries involved the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). Female athletes are generally two to three times more prone to tearing their ACL than their male counterparts. When we consider the possible risk factors for tearing an ACL; neuromuscular control deficits, poor form during running/cutting/landing, weak hip musculature, poor core stability, and an imbalance in quadricep strength/hamstring strength ratios, it becomes clear that working with a PT can help address each of these variables. Therefore, it’s essential to address possible impairments before they lead to injury.
In addition to preventing injury and keeping you healthy, PT's are well equipped to help to perform even better. Physical therapists work with their patients to develop performance goals and can create a customized exercise program to help achieve them. PT's work with patients to build strength, boost endurance, and improve balance/coordination. A PT can even help tackle areas of mental/cognitive weakness by providing patients with the tools to stay focused on the field/court. They can prescribe creative ways to challenge the brain to focus on a different task while also physically challenging the patient.
PT’s equip their patients with strategies and plans that they can take beyond the clinic walls. A physical therapist doesn’t “give you the fish”, they “teach you to fish” so that you can continue to make progress at home via specialized home exercise programs. They teach patients how to perform exercises that will strengthen essential muscles and work on improving mobility and alignment required for optimal physical function while also describing ways to progress (make activities more challenging) or regress (make an activity easier) exercises.
If you are having difficulty moving around due to pain, loss of range of motion, or decreased strength, you may benefit from working with a physical therapist. If you are looking to avoid getting injured or unlock that extra bit of performance, checking in with a PT is an excellent idea.
Written by Mohammad Saad, PT Student