What’s So Great About Physical Therapy Anyway?

Sprains, strains, surgery, broken bones, limping, restricted movements, stumbling, arthritis, certain diseases, and chronic pain. Pretty gross list, right? But, I would hazard a guess that if you are old enough to read this, you have experienced one or more of the things on this list.

I suppose you could say that it is the price we pay for having a body.

Here’s the thing. After seeing a doctor, surgeon, or some other health professional about any of the above, there is the aftermath. In my personal experience and after working with lots of people, I am surprised by how often medical professionals do not consider sending their patients to physical therapy.

Even for those who go, there can be resistance. This is actually reasonable. Physical therapy takes time, is not just a one shot deal, and usually requires doing a home program several times a day. Perhaps many people end up wondering why it’s important at all, why physical therapists are doing what they do, or why there is so much repetition involved.

Just in case you (or someone you know) are in any of these groups, here’s a bit of information.

1. When our bodies get an injury or something runs amok, your body tries to fix things by laying down some new tissue.

This new stuff doesn’t match what used to be there. In other words, it is scar tissue. Scar tissue does not work as well as regular tissue, and is usually stiffer. Many of the procedures and techniques used in physical therapy are designed to get that tissue working for you in the best possible way. This is what is going on when massaging or heating tissues with the help of a machine is followed by stretching. As you might imagine, it is best to help your tissues along while they are healing because once scar tissue has been there for a while, it is more resistant to making improvements.

2. Your muscles, tendons, and ligaments do not act alone. Their actions are guided by your nerves.

Once an injury has occurred, your nerves do their best to help you compensate for whatever is going on. This means that they will now be guiding your body to do things that may not be in your best interest in the long run. Let’s say you sprain your ankle and develop a limp as it heals. Sometimes, your system ends up continuing to favor the other leg, knee, and hip without you even realizing it.

Enter physical therapy. Part of what physical therapists do is to retrain your nervous system to even you out. That is one of the main reasons that they ask you to repeat certain motions and stretches again and again, and to do the same at home. It takes lots and lots of repetitions to retrain your nerves and muscles. This can be annoying, but if you stick with it the results are truly worth it.

3. Why does this matter?

As one of the nation’s premier physical therapists, Grey Cook, puts it, THE main cause of injury to the body is asymmetry. Meaning, if things are not even across both sides of your body, you are at much higher risk for one or several things going wrong. Example: The limp from that sprained ankle can affect how your pelvis works when you walk, and lead to low back problems.

So in the interest of taking good care of yourself, be sure to ask your medical professional about physical therapy. Then, go at it like a champ. You only get one body in this life. Why not do the best you can for it?


© 2018-2020 Kristen Carter. All rights reserved.

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