Updated: May 2
Many times I am presented with the questions, "Do I need physical therapy?" “But, why can’t I just do this on my own?” “How can I do this to myself at home?” and “I don’t think I need a PT, I just need to go to the gym, right?”
I have learned that, for many reasons, people want to find the easy way, the cheap way, or avoid fixing the problem altogether. However, most times you will not find success doing things on your own or trying to find your own solutions. Here, I am going to address the most common reasons people feel they can fix their pain on their own and how a physical therapist will help.
“I can just Google my symptoms and find some exercises to do.”
Most will start by Googling your pain for solutions or exercises that can help you. I have always said that Googling will always end in you dying tomorrow. Yes, that’s just a joke, but because symptoms are most times multifaceted, Google will find all the possible causes of your pain even if there is a 1 in 1 trillion possibility that is what is causing your specific pain.
Physical therapists are doctors in their field and movement specialists. A PT can watch you walk, run, or simply get up from a chair and know what might be weak, tight, stiff, or straining; something that no other health professional can do. Once we know your symptoms, they guide us to possible reasons for your pain and give us a pathway to follow to determine the root causes.
Once the cause of your pain is determined, there will be specific exercises that are best for you and YOU ONLY at that moment which address any deficits the PT finds: tight muscles, stiff joints, weakness, poor posture or control, etc. The exercises that you find on Google may be okay for you, but they are broad-based for the general public. For example: If someone comes to me with back pain and they only want to do the exercises they found online, they may be doing something that could make their pain worse. Sometimes back pain is best treated with extension vs flexion techniques or they need stability and the exercises are telling them to stretch more. Your physical therapist can determine which route is best and prescribe you with the exercises that assist with the deficits.
“All I need to do is exercise more and get back in the gym.”
Exercise is always a great place to start. We were made to be active individuals, not ones that spend the majority of our days in a chair or bed. The technology of today allows us to be very sedentary and takes the activity out of a lot of our days. Even as simple as walking to a copy/fax machine: now we can sit in our chair and send emails/faxes with the touch of a few buttons and not have to get up at all.
Sometimes, however, exercise causes more pain to an already inflamed joint or strained muscle and there may be underlying reasons why it is hurting. A physical therapist can assess the mobility of the joints, the flexibility of the tissues, and the strength or control of muscles that can be the underlying cause of your pain. They can also mobilize the joints or release the soft tissue to increase your movement and mobility to promote healing and progress you ahead of the pain.
Another huge part to this is that the majority of people either don't know how to do the exercises correctly or don't do them consistently and therefore, don't see any changes or progression. It is a known fact that people work best when they have someone to keep them accountable. When you have the physical therapist working directly with you, they can correct your form and technique to make sure you are getting the most out of it and not causing any further harm.
“I don’t have the time or motivation to complete the home exercises every day.”
If I got a quarter for every time someone told me they haven’t been doing their exercises…I would be rich! The best part about working with a physical therapist is getting to know and understand how to manage your pain on your own so that you don’t have the same problem again down the road or rely on us to fix it every time.
The exercises that the PT gives you should facilitate the gains that you made while working one-on-one with them. For example: If I get my hands on your shoulder joint to increase the mobility so that you can reach overhead, you will need to do some stretches that promote this same motion in order to maintain what you gained in your PT.
I think the best way for you to be successful in completing the exercises is by making them part of your day vs having to set aside 30 minutes in the morning and evening to complete them. Following the previous example with shoulder mobility, try to correct your reaching posture every single time you reach overhead and it hurts. Make yourself reassess what the movement looked like, squeeze your shoulder blade back and then try it again; this is how our brain is trained to start utilizing a new movement pattern. And it takes LOTS and LOTS of practice and the more you do them, the easier it will become.
Are you having pain? Book a call!
If you’ve gotten this far in reading, and you are currently thinking about a pain you have that is limiting your function or sport, you need to reach out! Don’t wait until the pain is so bad that it is affecting every aspect of your life because then it will take twice as long to get ahead of it or you may have permanent damage that will limit you ongoing.
I offer No-charge phone consultations to discuss what you have going on and see if we would be a good fit! It doesn’t take long! You can click here to schedule it now and take the first step in getting out of pain and returning to a life where you can do and go as you please!