When You Should Go See a Physical Therapist
Ryan Cross – B.A. Hons (Kin), MScPT, FCAMPT
Physical activity and a healthy lifestyle are becoming a major focus in today’s society. With countless apps and devices to help guide you through various work out plans, it’s easier now more than ever to get fit and get healthy. The health benefits of being active are clear, but there is potential for injury. With an aging population and a focus on being physically fit, it is important to know how you can stay in the game. Physiotherapists (or physical therapists) are health care professionals trained to assess and treat muscle, joint, bone, and neurological impairments. The conditions that a physiotherapist will treat can range from simple sprains and strains to complex, multi-system dysfunction. No matter what game you play, there are times when a physiotherapist can keep you in the game or get you off the sidelines sooner.
The most common reason to see a physiotherapist is due to pain. Pain can occur for a number of reasons including training error, accident at work or home, or chronic conditions. Everyone encounters pain from time to time, but if it lasts for longer than 2-3 days then it will likely alter your day to day activities. If pain forces you to change your training schedule, modify the way you move, or avoid activities then a physiotherapist can help you. A physiotherapist will help you understand your pain, determine the cause of your pain, and guide you through a plan to get back to your normal self. Whether your pain occurred recently or has been a chronic issue, it is never too late to see a physiotherapist. “No pain, no gain” can be a motivating motto as long as it is not affecting daily activities and performance.
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Professional athletes aren’t the only ones who need to perform at full capacity. Physiotherapists can help people of all functional levels perform at the level they desire by identifying limitations in performance of their activity. There can be a number of factors that affect performance. Runners trying to shave seconds or minutes off a personal best time may have a muscle imbalance causing early fatigue. Mobility restrictions in joints along the kinetic chain can be a limiting factor during lifts in the weight room. Physiotherapists have specialized training in the assessment and treatment of the neuro-musculoskeletal system and this expertise can help identify what might be holding you back from optimal performance.
Joint replacement surgery, rotator cuff repairs, and back surgeries are being performed with increasing frequency. A physiotherapist is integral to your care before and after surgery. Before the surgery a physiotherapist can help you maximize mobility and strength. The more range of motion and strength you have before surgery usually improves your chances of a positive outcome after the surgery. In some cases, seeing a physiotherapist early on can help you avoid the surgery altogether. When surgery is necessary, a physiotherapist will help guide you through the recovery process. Each patient will respond differently to a surgery; physiotherapists excel at developing an individualized treatment plan to get you back to the activity most meaningful to you.
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The prevalence of chronic disease seems to be on the rise. Receiving a diagnosis of cancer, fibromyalgia, or multiple sclerosis does not have to mean giving up all activity. Many chronic conditions will require a modification in activity and functional status, but a physiotherapist can help you maximize function and determine a plan for the activity appropriate for you. Finding a meaningful activity to participate in can have many benefits including improved functional status and feelings of well being. Physiotherapists learn about the many chronic conditions during their training, with some becoming specialized practitioners for certain conditions. In many cases, a physiotherapist can help you maintain a high functional level for a prolonged period of time.
A physiotherapist is a highly skilled health care professional that can help anyone trying to improve their functional level. Whether it’s the person trying to reach 10, 000 steps for the day, to the weekend warrior, to the elite athlete. A physiotherapist can also be particularly helpful for those people suffering an accident or chronic condition. The next time you need to improve your game or get back into it, go see a physiotherapist.
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Ryan Cross, B.A. Hons (Kin), MScPT, FCAMPT
Registered Physiotherapist in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada
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