Pain. What do you know about it? And how do you describe it? I know enough about pain to explain to you the type of pain I feel, and how it affects my daily or recreational activities. So that is how I approach the path to progress; I try to figure out how to move better without that pain! My intrinsic drive to improve movement quality is something that bubbles to the surface because I ask a lot of my body. The manifestation of an inhibited muscle, scar tissue, or whatever the epicenter of my source of pain may be, is something I like to address quickly and effectively. In order to do that, I like to get a second, very professional, set of eyes on my movement patterns.
Living with transient pain is pretty inevitable - especially as we age. Living passively with chronic pain is optional. We can and should all seek treatment for the things that nag us, because if we don’t, there is a likelihood that the injury will get worse over time! We should also consistently reinforce good movement patterns with strength training, but more on that later…There may be an existing anatomical disadvantage (like flat feet) that has triggered a pain response for you, yet that does not mean there is nothing to be done about it! Every BODY can be trained with the proper correctives to at least yield some amount of improvement. You are much better served getting assessed by a physical therapist who knows what he/she is doing in order to help you install corrective exercises that can help you gain better motor control and mitigate pain.
The best approach I’ve found to developing a productive relationship with a PT is to think of your appointments as a collaborative experience. That means you need to be in touch with the source of your pain. Make sure you are able to articulate what it is that is bothering you. Start with the low hanging fruit; where do you feel pain, and what types of movements trigger that pain? Does the pain change at all when you go through a range of motion? These are all the questions that you will be asked by a physical therapist. They will go ahead and do some tests anyways to get to the root of the injury, but STILL… show up prepared to explain your pain and work through some body weight movement patterns.
Good physical therapists, I’ve found, are not all about “stim”, ultrasound, and superficial treatment. Those types of therapies almost exclusively treat the perception of pain, not the source of the pain itself (usually the culprit is faulty/restricted movement patterning). Graston and manual adjustments are definitely a beneficial part of a physical therapist’s job; however, the most effective treatment that I personally have received is the kind that educates me and makes me work hard to earn my progress! When I’m not at an appointment, I call my PT exercises my body homework. The work you do at an appointment must be reinforced with your body homework! As explained by a couple PTs whom I know, physical therapists used to be taught to nurse people’s injuries and keep them away from the movements that triggered pain. Nowadays, there is plenty of research that supports the importance of loading movement patterns to a degree in order to treat pathologies like tendinopathy. So, like I said, show up ready to do some controlled movements during your appointments. Bodyweight never felt so good!
Another great feature of a great PT is her/his ability to educate you about your own body! Oh, the things that I have learned about my externally rotated right tibia over these past couple months! Why is my right knee more susceptible to injury, Keith?! Does it have anything to do with my limited lateral tibial glide and internal rotation?? EXCELLENT! Now I know more about the source of my pain, and now I have at least four corrective exercises that I can employ in my warm-ups prior to taking on squats more comfortably! Find someone who will do the good ol’ test-retest in the same session in order to screen for the effectiveness of treatment!
In addition to Keith Foley at Joint Ventures, I also have Zak Gabor at Boston PT and Wellness to thank for scripting my recovery regimen in the wake of my lateral meniscus tear. From him, I learned about the importance of building muscle surrounding the injured joint as well as the surrounding joints. I will never take for granted how much the hip controls the knee – and now I work on strengthening my hips every time I go to move weights around because I know my hips will help support my knees! I’ve also learned how important motor control is at your feet, and how neglecting single-leg work can lend itself to injury. Ever wondered why you have more single leg eyes closed balances in your program? You can go ahead and thank Zak and the folks at Boston Physical Therapy and Wellness too!
From these appointments with physical therapists, I hope that you can gain a better understanding of the importance of moving well everyday. We don’t say, “movement is medicine” for no reason, after all. Please reach out to an Achieve coach if you are in need of a referral, as we want your progress in PT to be reinforced by your programming at the gym and translate to pain-free daily living!