PHYSICAL THERAPY IS FOR EVERYONE!
The transition to the doctorate degree in physical therapy has initiated a shift from healer to that of helper and often times it is misunderstood what a physical therapist actually does. I like to consider myself a helper or more appropriately guider if there is such a word. I am here to tell you about the one-to-one model of physical therapy, its immense value and how it can help everyone.
BE PREPARED WHEN EXERCISING IN THE HEAT
The sun powers all life processes on earth, but it also has the power to take life away. As temperatures and humidity levels around the country gravitate towards the 80’s, 90’s and 100’s, athletes exercising outdoors need to prepare appropriately for the sun and resulting heat. Just like you wouldn’t go outside on a below zero-degree day without a coat you shouldn’t go out in the ninety-degree heat without preparation.
Concussion evaluation and management have received a lot of attention over the past few years and rightfully so, but some heat illnesses can also have severe and long lasting implications. According to the Korey Stringer Institute (KSI), heat stroke is one of the leading causes of sudden death in sports. An athlete suffering from a heat illness can find his or her mental and physical conditions deteriorate quickly and if someone isn’t there to recognize the symptoms and take appropriate measures then the result can be catastrophic. All health professionals would agree that preventing harm to the human body is much better than reacting after an injury or an illness has occurred. In most all situations, exertional heat stroke and other heat related illnesses can be prevented with the proper education and planning on both the athletes part and by the coaches and support staff.
WHY EVERY ATHLETE SHOULD CONSIDER USING A FOAM ROLLER
For any of you who have ever had a knot or trigger point worked on by a massage therapist, a spouse or willing friend, then you yourself may have uttered these same words, “that hurts so bad, but please keep going.” You may be surprised at how many of these knots you have within your muscles at this current moment. Trauma to a muscle will result in microspasms, which will in turn create myofascial adhesions. These adhesions are formed by the body’s natural protective response anytime there is direct force, muscle imbalance, poor posture or repetitive stressors. These adhesions cause a decrease in normal muscle function and will cause other nearby muscles to work harder which can lead to further imbalances and ultimately injury.
Enter the foam roller. Especially for the lower body and back, routinely using a foam roller can prove to be a valuable tool in staving off injury as it will help to break up these myofascial adhesions and release the microspasms. This will give the underlying muscle a chance to function at its optimal length.
Acute and chronic musculoskeletal complaints and work-related injuries are on the rise, but why? One glaring reason is two out of every three Americans sit for all or part of their work day at a computer station.1 This exposes workers to awkward postures, repetitive motions of the upper extremities as well as sustained postures that can create a multitude of spinal and muscular complaints. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, trigger finger, golfer’s or tennis elbow, along with cervical and lumbar disorders are examples of a few conditions that can be alleviated through appropriate ergonomics.
A second issue, according to anthropometric measurements (the comparative study of sizes and proportions of the human body), is that a standard desk is made to fit the height of the 95th percentile of all men! This is absurd, considering this means you have to be 6 feet 3½ inches tall to appropriately fit at a standard desk. We have to consider that 90% of people (male or female) fall between 5 feet 3 inches tall and 6 feet ½ inch tall.
If you were at work today lifting a heavy box or at your adult league soccer game this evening and now your low back is locked in a spasm…what course of treatment would you pursue? Self treat with ice and advil and give it a few days to see how it responds? Immediately go to urgent care for evaluation and possible x-rays? Swear off the medical profession and have a beer to ease the pain? Look up home remedies on your computer for treating an acute back injury? (By the way I just did this and supposedly 1 tbsp of black coffee inside your compression wrap may help reduce swelling…who knew?)
What I’m getting at is we all have different ways of dealing with injuries and pain. Some may seem more extreme than others, but due to personal experiences or family upbringing we usually have a set way of dealing with physical trauma. For those growing up thinking you could rub dirt on any injury, these people will tend to self-treat more often. Others prefer reassurance and expertise by seeking an evaluation by a medical professional. Gaining in popularity, many are starting to choose a non-traditional western approach and will seek the advice and treatment of an acupuncturist, craniosacral therapist, reiki master or energy balancer.
Personally, I believe all the different treatment options available have an important place in today’s society. The biggest question is when to use which tool. Maybe the back injury wasn’t nearly as bad as it initially felt and you didn’t need to go to urgent care right away. Maybe your back pain would have cleared up through self-treatment by applying ice and resting. But maybe not, maybe this injury was much worse this time and possibly even a herniated disc. These symptoms wouldn’t have cleared up after a week and there is even a chance you could be doing more damage by continuing to work or play.
I don’t have a magic answer for you. Instead I ask everyone to assess their own unique and established treatment philosophy and not be afraid to break out of this mold. If you have been suffering from neck pain or radiating pain for several years why not go see a physical therapist. If you haven’t been to the doctor in 20 years, maybe it’s time to start going for an annual physical. If you have chronic headaches and your only treatment for the last few years is daily aspirin, why not go see an acupuncturist. Change is difficult, but living with pain and not exploring the different therapy options available to you could be costing you your happiness.
Nathan Dufault, ATC
Nathan has been a certified athletic trainer since 2003. He is currently the office manager and co-owner at Mindful Motion Physical Therapy, LLC in Madison, Wisconsin.
These are the thoughts and opinions of the author and they do not constitute medical advice. For advice on medical issues you should always consult your local medical practitioner.