Oftentimes, when someone has a non-emergent injury, the first thing recommended is starting physical therapy. The reason why this is so important is because when we are in pain, we start to move in patterns to protect or avoid the pain. In the short term, this can help our tissues heal, but in the long term, it affects the biomechanics and can actually delay long term healing.
What is a physical therapist?
A well trained physical therapist (or physiotherapist) can help identify and correct these movement patterns. Then, they can help strengthen the muscles, ligaments, and tendons around the affected area to help decrease pain and increase function. They use a wide variety of modalities that can help with pain and inflammation such as: acupuncture, aquatic therapy (hydrotherapy), dry needling, ultrasound modalities, electrical stimulation, manual therapy, heat and cold therapy, etc. They also can recommend different modalities to help manage pain outside of the treatments. In my opinion, this is not only vital to help people get better faster, but if another treatment needs to be done, such as an injection or a surgery to help with the pain, these exercises should be continued after the intervention, but also much more often.
What is the importance of individualized care?
Not all patients are the same when it comes to treatment, or even the cause of injury. Therefore, the physical therapist should be giving you individualized care. I always take my patients through 2-3 exercises they can do at home. I often give them individuals to follow on Instagram or YouTube to help with their pain (see later for some free resources). The advantages of individualized care is that these physical therapists and their assistants are very good at giving us verbal cueing, and tactile (touching) feedback on which muscles and joints to focus on moving. They remind us to breathe, they encourage us when we are down, and they cheer with us when we improve. These are things you don’t always have the opportunity to have when exercising alone or without a trained professional. I view these physical therapists as coaches, because that is really what they are.
What happens after physical therapy?
Once the patient graduates from physician therapy, I usually recommend my patients do the exercises 10-20 minutes a day 3-4 times a week. The more often, the better. If it is making the pain worse or if you don’t see much improvement, that would be a reason to stop the exercises and get a re-evaluation. That is when diagnostic imaging such as x rays,CT scans, MRIs, and ultrasound comes into a patient’s care algorithm. Overall though, sometimes, we need reminders to improve our form and function.
There are often many physical therapist locations in most towns and cities. The important part is to find a provider that works the best for you and your injuries!
Here are some recommendations of where to start your injury recovery journey: