Through the years I have been fortunate to recover from various injuries — back issues, sprained ankles, plantar fasciitis. When injuries like these linger, like a frozen shoulder, it can be frustrating. This is where physical therapy can be of help.
Physical therapy is a combination of functional exercises and education about the way your body moves and can help you heal properly from an injury. It can also help you reduce your risk of aggravating an injury, reduce chronic pain, and even improve performance in sports.
PT and exercise go hand-in-hand. But PT is goal-oriented and typically involves improving function in targeted areas of the body. For example, if you tore your rotator cuff and had surgery to repair it, your PT program will help improve the movement, strength, and function of your rotator cuff.
Injury can occur if you move the wrong way and place additional stress on a traumatized part of your body. With PT, you can learn which movements are safe for you, and which movements or activities to avoid to prevent further injury. A lack of supervision is often what hampers recovery.
PT can also help strengthen areas that have been weakened by trauma, for instance after a stroke or a car accident. A physical therapist can determine what muscle areas need work and recommend functional exercises that focus on these sites. Over time, PT can help build up your strength and increase flexibility. Chronic pain can also be alleviated by PT, cutting down on the need for pain medication.
PT can also help people who want to increase athletic efficiency, helping you focus on the right exercises to improve your performance, to score more points or to reach a new personal record. Regularly attending PT can also prepare your body for the repetitive movements of your chosen sport, reducing your risk of injury.
PT starts with an evaluation, during which your rehabilitation medicine doctor and physical therapist will assess your overall functional mobility. Then you will work together to come up with your mobility goals and develop a plan for reaching them. This plan will be unique to you and your lifestyle. It may involve both one-on-one appointments in a gym-like facility, or a clinical setting like a hospital or outpatient facility, and/or exercises you can do at home.
It’s up to you and your physical therapist to decide whether to continue once you’ve reached your goals. The full benefit of PT cannot be achieved with only one to two sessions. It can take six to eight weeks for soft tissue to heal, which is why patients are typically advised to do PT regularly for this amount of time after surgery or injury.
So, the next time you have an injury or have had a setback, don’t just hit the gym and think you’re going to get back what you lost by yourself, there’s a specialist for that. Go and see someone who can work with you while you walk the road to recovery.
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