It’s easy to justify getting Physical Therapy when you’re in pain. The pain is an alarm repeatedly going off in your brain telling you to do something about it – and you know that PT will help (I hope). But why would you ever seek Physical Therapy if you aren’t injured or having pain? Isn’t the whole concept of PT: rehabilitation?
Yes, rehabilitation is ONE aspect of Physical Therapy – and a very important one. Although it was true 20+ years ago that PT was primarily a reactive and passive treatment choice for pain, times have changed…
Physical Therapy In the 21st Century
Today’s Physical Therapists are more educated than ever before – all accredited PT programs in the US are now DPT (Doctor of Physical Therapy) programs. Many therapists are taking their education even further with Residencies and Fellowships to advance their knowledge and skill and specialize in certain niche populations.
PT utilizes much more active participation than it used to. This means that you are involved in your treatment. You don’t come to PT like you would a massage therapist1 to get worked on, go home, and feel better for a little while, only to repeat the process every 2 weeks for the rest of your life. No – your outcomes depend a great deal on your participation.
PT is now much more movement-based. We no longer rely solely on an x-ray or MRI to tell us what you have going on – we look at how you move. This tells us what impairments you may have – weakness in certain muscles, tightness in others, joint stiffness – that might change your posture and cause you to perform functional movements in a way that may not be optimal.
If It Ain’t Broke, You Still Might Need To Fix It
Even if you don’t realize it now, you likely have several impairments that may potentially lead to pain or injury in the future.”
I don’t tell you this to scare you, but to inform you – and hopefully motivate you to take action!
Without getting too technical, you have hundreds of muscles throughout your body that all pull different directions. Each muscle has one or more antagonist muscles that pull in the opposite direction. Much of the time, one of these muscles is too stiff, the other is too weak, or both.
A good Physical Therapist can help locate these impairments so you know exactly what you need to work on.
What Physical Therapy Can Do For You Now
Although rehabilitation is ONE important aspect of Physical Therapy, ANOTHER arguably more important aspect is “Prehabilitation”.
Prehabilitation means preparing your body to perform life’s tasks optimally in a way that minimizes your risk of developing pain or injury in the future.”
As we’ve seen, this doesn’t look the same for everyone. I can give you general advice to strengthen your core, improve your posture, improve your lifting mechanics, etc. Suggestions alone, though, may not target your specific needs. You are a unique individual with unique impairments. You perform unique tasks every day. Therefore, you require a Prehabilitation program customized for you.
A Physical Therapist will take you through a series of functional movements, evaluating the way your body moves. Based on what she sees, she will then test specific areas for joint mobility, muscle strength, and muscle length – all areas that could be contributing to less-than-optimal movement.
Identifying these key impairments is your roadmap to better function. You’ll find out exactly what you need to work on to move better, function better, perform better, minimize pain, and reduce your risk of injury.
The Next Step
I believe everyone should see a Physical Therapist at least once per year for a functional checkup.”
It’s universally accepted that everyone should see their Doctor for a physical ever year, and everyone should see their dentist at least once per year – I believe an annual physical therapy checkup is of equal importance.
Whether you sit at a desk all day or are an aspiring Olympian, whether you’ve been stuck in your recliner for years or are a hardcore weekend warrior, your body has specific impairments that need to be addressed…and a good Physical Therapist isn’t hard to find nowadays.
So which PT should you see?
I would suggest you do a bit of research. Go to MoveForwardPT.com for a list of reputable Physical Therapists in your area. You can also search for specialists. For instance, if you play sports, you can search for a sports specialist. If you want a general musculoskeletal evaluation, you can search for an orthopedic specialist. There are also women’s health specialists, geriatric specialists, pediatric specialists, and neurological specialists.
In many states, including California (where I live), you don’t need a referral from a Physician to see a Physical Therapist, which means you can call a PT and request an evaluation directly.
If you are in a network which does require a Physician’s referral, ask for one. Most physicians are big proponents of Physical Therapy. To skip a few steps, I would email your doctor, briefly explain why you want to go to PT and ask for a referral. Be sure to emphasize that you want to learn specific exercises to prevent injury in your job or sport.
Whatever it is that you do, whatever your current physical status, you can benefit from Physical Therapy.”
The bottom line is this: even if you don’t have pain, you need Physical Therapy.
Question: What functional impairments do you have that need improvement? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
- Nothing against massage therapists – I love massages, they’re great! ↩︎