You probably already know to make an appointment with a physical therapist when you sprain your ankle or develop tennis elbow. But what if you’ve felt a slight twinge in your knee during your daily walk or noticed that your posture has changed since you accepted a job that requires sitting for eight or more hours a day? Or maybe you’ve been thinking about joining a gym to get in shape.
Are these reasons to see a physical therapist? Yes!
Each of these scenarios has the potential for injury. Physical therapists are experts in injury prevention and are trained to spot small problems before they become big problems—and often before you know that there’s a problem at all. Physical therapists evaluate, screen and assess patients using a variety of tools to detect mobility limitations and muscle imbalances that, if left untreated, may leave you more prone to serious injuries down the road.
When caught early, injuries—or the very beginning signs of an injury—are easier to treat and the recovery period is shorter, less expensive and less of a burden on everyday life. Knowing what to look out for—and when to see a healthcare professional—is often not as obvious as it sounds. Some signs and symptoms aren’t recognized as indicators of an injury while others may be brushed off as nothing serious. Here are a few things to look out for:
• Joint pain
• Reduced range of motion
• Numbness or tingling
• Balance issues
If you’re experiencing any of these signs or symptoms, schedule an appointment with a physical therapist to rule out a potential problem or to nip one in the bud before it becomes more serious. Based on background, training and experience, physical therapists understand how a patient’s risk for specific types of injuries can increase based on participation in certain sports and recreational activities, as
well as identify physical strains due to on-the-job and household demands.
An individualized exercise program designed to strengthen your muscles, improve flexibility and optimize your physical ability can help correct and prevent issues that could turn into injuries in the future. For example, a teenage field hockey player can learn exercises to perform regularly to lower her risk of tearing her ACL. Your physical therapist can design an injury prevention exercise program to suit your specific needs and ensure your healthy participation in sports, recreational activities and everyday life.
When is the best time to see your physical therapist? Sooner is nearly always better than later!