When it comes to physical therapy, many people have one of two thoughts. Either “I’m not hurt, so I don’t need physical therapy” or “I’ve been to a physical therapist before and they just put me on machines and gave me boring exercises.”
Many of you know physical therapy as a reactive process. Somewhere you go when you get hurt, where you are put on machines, given boring exercises and stretches, and maybe a few minutes of hands-on therapy with a therapist.
However, the physical therapy profession is evolving. It now includes analyzing movement and predicting injury risk, determining areas of potential injury, addressing strength imbalances, and improving posture, performance, and health. Basically, optimizing your movement. Helping you feel better, even when you didn’t know it was possible to feel better. What could possibly be cooler than that?
But while the profession is changing, but that doesn’t mean everyone is changing with it. We are in a new age of physical therapy and a new age of health and fitness. As with any change, some people lead and some resist. It is up to you to be knowledgeable and informed so you can better yourself.
Emphasis on Movement
Gone are the days where we look at muscles in isolation. As Thomas Myers, author of Anatomy Trains, once put it - we do not have 600 muscles, but instead we have one muscle in 600 pockets. These muscles do not work in isolation. They work together to create movement. And this is precisely why you can’t look at, train, or heal muscles in isolation.
Even more, musculoskeletal problems are a lifestyle problem. As a society, we simply do not move enough. Most of us sit all day, and even those of us who workout often have to spend hours at a computer or in a car. This lifestyle changes our movement system. It creates muscle imbalances that affect how we move. It creates mobility restrictions, which mean we have to compensate elsewhere to maintain mobility and movement.
This is where physical therapy - especially the new age version - excels. Through optimizing movement to improve your health. And this is what you will see in the profession: a shift from boring exercises that isolate muscles to functional movements. Dynamic full-body stretches, and other exercises that improve alignment, stability, and mobility. Exercises that mimic what we do in daily life.
Regular Check-Ins for Prevention of Injury
Physical therapists have a unique set of skills when it comes to preventative medicine. Movement is crucial for our health, but it also tells us so much. It can tell us if there is a dysfunction through pain, imbalance, instability, or mobility restrictions. When we look at movement, we can see if further assessment is required to pinpoint a potential problem, potential source of injury, or source of pain.
Movement can hurt us if it is done incorrectly, but correcting the dysfunction can prevent pain and injury from ever occurring. Consider oral health. Most of us go to the dentist on a regular basis for a check-up. This makes perfect sense. Why have a tooth pulled when you can prevent the cavity to begin with?
Our musculoskeletal health should be no different. We have the means and the skills to monitor our musculoskeletal health to make sure we are moving efficiently, without major compensations, imbalances, or restrictions. Traditionally physical therapy is thought to be reactive. You get hurt, you have pain, and you seek help. But why wait for the injury to occur when you can prevent it from happening?
This is the new age of physical therapy. No longer should you feel as though you must be injured to work with a therapist. Instead, regular check-ins should and will become the norm. To prevent injury. To move better, perform better, and feel better even when you didn’t know you could.
It’s time you take your health and fitness into your own hands. Prevent future injury. Monitor your movement system.