Physical Therapy: Beyond Injuries

If you’ve ever had a sports-related injury or orthopedic surgery, physical therapy has probably been part of the deal. PTs specialize in evaluating your condition and developing a plan to help you recover while safely getting you back to your naturally active self. With the changes the medical and insurance climate has undergone over recent years, physical therapists have taken on a more prevalent role in healthcare. Now, in addition to helping out in rehab, PTs are stepping in to help prevent possible injuries, assist with weight loss, and, in some instances, physical therapy can make it possible to avoid surgery altogether.

Bypass-ing Surgery

Avoid going under the knife–unless there’s severe damage such as muscle or tendon tears, physical therapy can be an effective way to cure chronic pain.

Considering the cost and the physical pain, who wouldn’t rather go through a few weeks of physical therapy rather than go under the knife and end up in PT anyway? In her article for Fitness magazine, Maura Kelly talks about injuring the tendons in her knee, and having the orthopedic surgeon suggest physical therapy first to see if surgery could be avoided. Obviously, if Kelly’s tendons had been torn, an operation would have necessary. However, more and more doctors are prescribing physical therapy for treating less serious injuries and chronic pain instead of jumping to the surgery conclusion.

Physical therapists are trained to evaluate your physical condition and can pinpoint areas of weakness you might be compensating for, ultimately causing the chronic pain you’re experiencing. For example, if your left hip is weaker than your right hip, it won’t be able to stabilize your left knee properly, causing chronic knee pain and possible frequent injuries. Additionally, you’ll be compensating by leaning on your right, stronger hip, throwing your body out of alignment and likely causing lower back or shoulder pain, or both. You may not have noticed anything but the pain, but your PT will trace your symptoms to the root of your problem and can develop a program to stabilize and strengthen your left hip which will alleviate chronic pain without surgery.

Prehab to Avoid Rehab

Your physical therapist is trained to identify weak and problem areas and develop a plan for strengthening them so you can avoid injury.
Image via Roger Mommaerts/Flickr

Fitday points out that those PT evaluations that identify weakness and imbalances can not only help avoid surgery in some cases but can also help prevent injuries in the first place. No matter what lifestyle you live, from sedentary to super-athlete, you can benefit from a few sessions with a physical therapist. That’s because lifestyle activities such as long-haul driving, working at a computer all day, pushing wheelbarrows full of concrete, or lifting weights, for example, can result in limited mobility and/or muscle imbalances, which can eventually cause injuries that will send you to the physical therapist anyway. If a golfer, for instance, indulges in a few sessions of prehab and then keeps up the exercises her PT recommends such as knee to chest hip stretches, thoracic rotation, and T push-ups, she will build the strength and mobility necessary to avoid the lower back pain and injuries that many golfers experience.

Really? PT for Weight Loss?

Whatever your age or weight control history, a physical therapist can tailor a weight loss program to help get you in shape.

Yep, your friendly neighborhood physical therapist can  help with weight loss, even if losing weight has been difficult for you in the past. Their experience and knowledge are very similar to personal trainers’, but a PT might more quickly recognize mobility issues and other concerns that are common for those who are overweight. Taking all of the pertinent information into consideration, a physical therapist will design a workout program for you that includes exercises tailored to your abilities, range of motion, etc., and they’ll help you set realistic, achievable goals. What’s more, your PT can work with you on generalized goals such as overall fitness, health, and wellness, or can help you train for another goal, such as marathon running or improving your golf swing.

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