Traditionally, when you would sustain an injury your initial reaction would be to call your doctor. In today’s day and age, this may not be your best option when it comes to sustaining musculoskeletal injury. There are indeed some conditions that require the immediate attention of a doctor, however in the case of physical injuries, seeing a physical therapist can be far more beneficial, efficient, and cost effective in the long term. In fact, you may even find your doctor referring you directly over to a physical therapist because of the powerful role they play in identifying and managing pain and injury.
Many people don’t know exactly what a physical therapist does. In short, a physical therapist is a specialist. They are focused on the movement of the body, which means they understand how the different parts of the body (muscle, bone, joint) interact to make normal fluid movement happen. Therefore, they are able to help people recover from different injuries and determine the source of bodily pain. They can examine how a limb moves, for example, and identify problematic patterns with that movement, such as stress or instability. When these movement deficits are left unchecked, they can cause or exacerbate injury.
Here are the four things a physical therapist can do for you that your doctor can’t:
1. Physical therapists can assess your risk of sustaining injury.
The old saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. Physical therapists can assess your risk of sustaining future injuries by using research tested movement screens and postural assessments. A functional movement screen involves the screening of all major functional motions that a person is likely to perform each day. This type of screen will involve evaluating a person’s individual upper and lower body stability, alignment, strength, flexibility, and range of motion. This will give the physical therapist an idea of the exact weaknesses and muscle imbalances in the body that they can improve that will significantly reduce your risk of injury. A postural assessment examines the body’s alignment in a resting position (ie. sitting or standing). For example, if you notice that you are experiencing pain during your job which demands you sit for long periods of time, your physical therapist will examine your sitting posture and determine which tissues are generating pain or which prolonged positions are generating pain and dysfunction.
2. Physical therapists can design you an individualized workout routine.
As we previously discussed, your physical therapist will perform a specific evaluation that will look at your gross movements, postures, strength, range of motion, flexibility, stability, joint mobility, and alignment. Based on the results of your in-depth evaluation, your physical therapist will develop a specific, individualized exercise routine that will restore your normal movement. This will ensure that your specific movement issue will not come back in the future.
Physical therapists are more than qualified than your average personal trainer to assist you with meeting not only your rehabilitation goals but also your personal fitness goals. Physical therapists are trained to evaluate your body mass index (BMI), body fat percentage, and even provide general education about nutrition in order to improve your overall health and wellness. They can also help you build routines that prepare you for more vigorous motions by working the prerequisite muscle groups ahead of time to prevent injury.
3. Physical therapists can accelerate your rate of recovery.
Physical therapists are trained in various specialized forms of treatment that can accelerate your rate of recovery from injury or following a surgical procedure. They can provide hands-on manual physical therapy treatments like stretching, mobilization, manipulation, massage, and cupping which can significantly help to rapidly reduce pain and stiffness. Other treatments can also be included as a part of a comprehensive rehabilitation plan of care including electrical stimulation, hot/cold packs, therapeutic ultrasound, and cold laser. Once pain and stiffness has been resolved, physical therapists will reinforce your recovery by giving you specific corrective exercises under some amount of load to build resilience to your body to ensure that your problem does not return.