We’ve all been there before: blindsided with an injury that takes us out of the game, out of our job, or even totally out of commission. Oftentimes, we look for shortcuts and symptomatic relief in the form of anti-inflammatory or pain medications, when it would really be in our best interest to get to the root of our problem and maybe (gasp) actually solve it! How are we supposed to play detective to the labyrinthine mysteries of our corporeal ailments, though?Stephan Venter, rockstar PT extraordinaire at Aurora Active
Who really knows what’s going on in there, right? Well, luckily for us all, we can pass off that onerous burden to the experts: those physiology super-sleuths and rehab superheroes known colloquially as Physical Therapists.
In our age of instant gratification, it can be tempting to write off “conservative treatment” as simply a necessary box to check before our insurance foots the bill for expensive imaging and diagnostic testing or serious surgical procedures. In actuality, however, we would be wise to embrace the conservative approach, which can save us from potentially permanent mobility and function losses as a result of overly-aggressive treatments. Physical therapy then, should be seen as our strongest, first-line defense. As health network family medicine physician, Madalyn Schaefgen, MD notes in “10 Ways Physical Therapy Can Help,” “The most conservative option is best. I’ve seen firsthand how physical therapy can help patients get stronger and more flexible. And once patients see the benefits, they become believers.”
If you’re still a PT-skeptic (fighting words, here at AlterG!), indulge me for a moment while I summarize just a few reasons why physical therapy is for YOU, and me, and all of us!
- Kick that pain to the curb! It may seem obvious that the main reason people seek physical therapy is to get rid of their pain. What is less obvious, however, is how the benefits of physical therapy can extend beyond acute injury episodes. By addressing underlying muscle imbalances, gait abnormalities, and flexibility issues, physical therapists can help you bolster your body’s defenses and fend off future injury.
- Turn back the clock on aging! Many of us tend to think of certain age-related degenerative conditions, such as osteoarthritis, as inevitable side-effects of that crazy thing called “life,” but this doesn’t have to be the case. Physical therapy can help us strengthen our joints, improve muscle tone and flexibility, and maintain our mobility well into our golden years.
- Fight back against neurological conditions! Whether you have suffered a stroke or have been diagnosed with a long-term condition, such as Parkinson’s, neurological problems can be incredibly frightening, isolating, and overwhelming. It may seem impossible to regain lost mobility and function, but a skilled physical therapist can help guide you through this trying process. By designing customized neuro-rehab plans that address each aspect of your condition, such as balance, coordination, and single sided weakness, PTs can help you take back your mobility, your confidence, and your life.
- Avoid going under the knife! In many cases, the risks of surgery tend to outweigh the potential benefits. For example, Achilles debridement procedures can create new scar tissue around the tendon sheath, worsening the very tendonosis the surgery was supposed to correct! By going to PT first, you can often avoid rolling the dice on a surgical outcome, and instead address the underlying cause of your issue. Why put a band-aid over a splinter, when you could just pull it all the way out and be rid of it for good!
- Achieve better wellness! We’ve been told time and time again that the best thing we can do for our bodies is to get moving, but this can prove challenging when we suffer from chronic pains or general lack of conditioning. PTs can help you safely transition from rehab to wellness, designing programs to improve your strength, endurance, and overall health while also addressing your original presenting issue.
Now do you believe (in life after love?)… in the power of PT?! The bottom line is that physical therapists are some of our strongest, yet underappreciated, soldiers in the fight against our bodily woes. They are down in the trenches, selflessly doing the grunt work to ensure that their patients will emerge from enemy fire unscathed. So the next time you wake up, crippled by that bad back again, consider putting the ibuprofen aside, and instead filling that untouched prescription for PT. Side effects may include: a spring in your step, spontaneous smiling, and envious glares from your slouching coworkers. We’re willing to bet you’ll be just fine with those.