Don’t just deal, help it heal!

Treating your condition at the onset of pain or symptoms will most likely help you to heal faster.

As in life as it is in physical therapy, there are many common barriers to achieving goals that we initially set out for ourselves. These barriers come in the form of a lack of time throughout the week, cost that may be associated, or not establishing what is important to YOU that provides internal drive to achieve your end goal. It is easy to fall into the motions and place your goals aside, bogged down by all the other stressors that can come with a typical work week.

A product of our very busy lives, we tend to push aside the minor aches and pains in favor of another task at work, home, or for the hobbies and activities we like to do in our free time. We believe that these inconvenient twinges and snags of discomfort will resolve if we just give it time or put it out of mind for a bit.  Yet unresolved, these aches or twinges can progress to painful and limiting injuries that can keep us from doing the things we love; with the ones we love. It even may land you in a doctor’s office asking why it just simply won’t go away.

There is an alternative, however….

In recent years physical therapy has become a direct access healthcare provider in many states, meaning that physical therapists can evaluate and treat a patient without the need for a referral from a medical doctor or other prescribing physician first.

Direct access can shorten the window between your first pain, and when you can get seen by a physical therapist to assess your musculoskeletal injury.

With many new therapists receiving a doctorate in their field, they are also trained and educated to notice signs of a condition that may fall outside of their scope of practice, allowing them to make a call in the rare instance that your back pain (or other) is not simply back pain, or when further imaging may be necessary (undiagnosed fracture, stress fracture, or bony abnormality).  With many recent changes and a progression to a doctorate in their field, physical therapists aim to be the preferred provider for your everyday aches, pains, sprains, and twinges; achieving it all in a format that reduces overall cost, time, and prescribed medications.

At this point you may be wondering why I’m telling you these wonderfully boring details; I promise I have a reason. As a therapist I often see friends, family, and people from every walk and age range of life place their pains on the back burner. It’s a very common thought process, “This will get better at the end of the week/month/season when things calm down, right?” For a small subset of times, yes. Most other times? No.  By attending to your discomfort early there is a lot to be gained; while waiting can lead to other problems down the line.

When pain and injuries that are sustained go unmanaged, our bodies’ structures can be susceptible to unresolved and uncoordinated healing. This uncoordinated or improper healing can lead to muscles, tendon, and ligaments that are not as structurally sound as uninjured tissues or those that have healed and been stressed (think strengthened and stretched) properly.

These proper stresses can be achieved through targeted exercises and activities, much like those prescribed during physical therapy sessions.

By helping your body heal properly AND effectively, physical therapists help reduce the likelihood of this problem coming back. When left untreated aches and pains can sometimes lead to chronic pains that just won’t go away. As a result, your body creates compensations, reduces proper muscle function, and can lead to decreased quality of life as you change your life around to avoid your pains.

With all these factors taken into account it becomes easier to see what you may gain from seeing your physical therapist during your early pains. When seen early, your plan of care can be much shorter, your number of visits can be much lower: ultimately saving you money and time when compared to a progressed state of discomfort. You get the peace of mind knowing you’ll be seen by highly trained professionals with a wide berth of knowledge and body regions they can treat with confidence. Most of all, if you’re a former patient you get to catch up with your favorite PT that you may have not seen in a while!

When it boils down to it, we all do this job because nobody deserves to “just deal with it.” We are here to help you reach your goals with professional, honest, and effective care. Treat your body as an investment. Time and resources spent early on in your discomfort only lead to a reduction in cost, time, and likelihood that your problems will come back.

The odds are simply stacked in your favor when you choose PT for your early onset aches and pains, even if you think it’s nothing. If you’re not fully convinced, we offer free half hour screens to see if you might be helped at one of our 5 great locations in Maine. Give us a call, just think about what you might have to gain!

Exercises you can do to prevent injury

1. Supine Lower Trunk Rotation

REPS: 10 | SETS: 3 | WEEKLY: 7x | DAILY: 1x
Setup: Begin lying on your back with your feet flat on the floor and your arms
straight out to your sides.
Movement: Lower your knees to one side, return to center, and repeat on the other
Tip: Make sure to activate your core muscles and keep both of your shoulders
in contact with the ground throughout the exercise.

2. Supine March

REPS: 10 | SETS: 3 | WEEKLY: 7x | DAILY: 1x
Setup: Begin lying on your back with your arms resting at your sides, your knees
bent and your feet flat on the ground.
Movement: Tighten your abdominals and slowly raise one of your legs off the floor,
keeping your knee bent. Then return to the starting position and repeat
with your other leg.
Tip: Make sure to keep your trunk stiff during the exercise and do not let your
low back arch.

3. Supine Hip External Rotation Stretch

REPS: 10 | SETS: 3 | WEEKLY: 7x | DAILY: 1x
Setup: Begin lying on your back with your legs straight.
Movement: Cross one leg over the other, resting your ankle on your opposite knee.
Bend the knee of your bottom leg toward your body until you feel a stretch
in your hip, and hold.
Tip: Make sure to keep your hip relaxed and your back flat against the ground.

4. Seated Cervical Retraction

REPS: 10 | SETS: 3 | WEEKLY: 7x | DAILY: 1x
Setup: Begin sitting in an upright position with your feet flat on the floor.
Movement: Gently draw your chin in, while keeping your eyes fixed on something in front of you.
Tip: Make sure that you do not look down as you do this exercise, or bend your neck forward.

5. Seated Scapular Retraction

REPS: 10 | SETS: 3 | WEEKLY: 7x | DAILY: 1x
Setup: Begin sitting in an upright position.
Movement: Gently squeeze your shoulder blades together, relax, and then repeat.
Tip: Make sure to maintain good posture during the exercise.

6. Seated Gentle Upper Trapezius Stretch

REPS: 10 | SETS: 3 | WEEKLY: 7x | DAILY: 1x
Setup: Begin sitting upright on a table grasping the edge with one hand.
Movement: Turn your head toward the side with your straight arm, then bend your neck sideways to
your opposite shoulder. You should feel a stretch in the side of your neck and upper back.
Tip: Make sure to keep your back straight during the exercise.

7. Seated Thoracic Lumbar Extension

REPS: 10 | SETS: 3 | WEEKLY: 7x | DAILY: 1x
Setup: Begin in a sitting upright position with your arms crossed over your chest.
Movement: Slowly arch your trunk backwards and hold, then return to an upright position and repeat.
Tip: Keep your movements slow and controlled. Do not move through pain.

Written by Branden George, PT DPT

Portland, Maine