Should Physical Therapy be Used to Prevent Injuries?
Should you visit a physical therapist even if you’re not injured? Here, we summarized a great article published in “Self” Magazine. Below are the key takeaways from the article, where writer Amy Marturana provides an interesting perspective on physical therapy as a preventive measure.
Yearly PT Check-Ups?
While most people don’t have “physical therapy” on their list of check-ups each year (such as the doctor, dentist, etc.), many physical therapists see patients regularly – even when they’re not injured. Physical therapist Karen Joubert, DPT stated that “People come to see us [after] surgery or sprained ankles or prehab before surgery, but the more interesting thing is that I have patients who are getting into their 30s and 40s and are realizing, ‘Wow, I want to live longer, maybe have a family. And I don’t want to have to be hunched over or have back surgery. How can I prevent that?'”
The idea of using physical therapy as a regular, preventive measure against aches, pains, and serious injuries down the road is something our team has always advocated, as well. Many of our patients are regular visitors who prefer physical therapy to other forms of pain management like massage, prescription drugs, chiropractic visits, or injections.
The article goes on to explain that “Physical therapists often work with people who are healing from an injury to help them restore proper movement patterns in the body and avoid future injury. They do this by teaching them how to do exercises that will strengthen important muscles, and work on improving mobility and alignment required for optimal physical function.”
For Those that Hit the Gym Hard
“Seeing a physical therapist when you feel perfectly fine can be beneficial for some people—especially those who hit the gym hard,” says Marturana. “Most preventive patients are looking for ways to keep their bodies functioning properly and avoid injury.” If you’re at the gym with the intention of changing the way your body looks, it’s common that you’ll encounter minor injuries along the way. Most people won’t even consider them injuries – just little tweaks or strains. Many push right past these warning signs not considering the more permanent damage that can come down the road.
The Counter Arguments
The article also speaks to the counterarguments about physical therapy as a preventive measure. The two major points brought up are a) if you’re already cured, and b) if it’s too costly. If you visited a physical therapist in the past for pain in your arm and that pain was completely resolved, the article suggests that there is no need to go back to “tune-up” your arm. In many instances, this is right – if an issue is completely resolved, physical therapy for that exact same issue may not help all that much. However, in our experience, we find that patients rarely are 100% healthy in every part of their body. Just because your arm pain has been resolved, the point of a regular check-up is to make sure everything else is functioning correctly and address other issues before they lead to another major incident.
As for the cost argument, the article says, “Seeing a physical therapist before training for an Ironman or joining a recreational adult soccer league is a smart idea to avoid injury and learn what your body needs (in terms of alignment and mobility and stability) during training. When it comes to just seeing a physical therapist on the regular to check-in, it’s definitely not going to hurt, but it also might not be worth your money. It’s a pretty personal decision, though—if it seems beneficial to you and your health and fitness goals, then it probably is worth it.” It goes on to state that while seeing a physical therapist once a week or month may not be cheap, neither is getting injured. Ultimately, it comes down to how much you value your wellbeing (and how good your insurance is).
What You May not Know
What many people don’t know is that nearly every state allows you to visit a physical therapist without a referral from your doctor or approval from your insurance company. To be sure, all you have to do is call a physical therapy clinic and ask them to verify your insurance before you come in. The front desk team will let you know what your co-pay will be (if any) and how many visits you can come in for without any kind of referral or prescription.
We’ll leave you with one last nugget of wisdom from this article: “If something hurts, stop doing it. If you think you injured yourself, see your doctor or a physical therapist to address it before it gets worse. You only get one body, so it’s always worth giving it the TLC it deserves.”