Here we go again! Come on 2022! I think for most of us, the only consistent thing this past year was the constant state of change. We are resilient people. Some of the changes were handled quite well (my home cooking skills have continued to improve), and some could have been better (snacking habits).
As we head into a new year and begin to consider some new goals and resolutions, I encourage you to start the year with an open mind. I hope that the following information may provide you with additional perspectives on how a physical therapist can help you achieve your goals. Let’s continue to think outside the box.
Here are 5 things you probably didn't know a physical therapist could do.
Prevent injuries or PREHAB
Why wait until you are hurt or in pain to come in to see us? Do you want to improve your athletic performance?
Now that we are getting more active due to reduction of COVID restrictions, some of us have started to get back into sporting activities, such as couch to 5k, basketball, roller derby, and snowboarding.
A physical therapist can evaluate if you may be vulnerable to future injuries, whether there are flexibility, strength and movement pattern issues.
If you are at risk, they will help you develop a program designed to address your vulnerabilities and improve your chances of having a spectacular season or active retirement.
Improve your sense of well-being by teaching you how to breath better
Who would have thought that we can influence how we feel by being aware of how we breathe. When we breathe, we use a large muscle called the diaphragm which separates your chest from your abdominal cavity and has connections to your vagus nerve. The cool thing about this is that the vagus nerve, when stimulated (mainly during exhalation), increases activity of the parasympathetic nervous system. “What system?” you say, and “Why does this matter?”
The parasympathetic nervous system is a vast network of nerve fibers that have connections from your brain to various organs in your body. It is mainly responsible for the rest and digest actions of our body, contributing to a reduction in your sense of anxiety, stress, and muscle tone, among other things. Physical therapists who have training in breathing dysfunction can evaluate and help teach you to effectively tap into that system.
This is only the tip of the iceberg! Learn about our Breathworks program and how PT can help.
Crack your back
Patients frequently say they didn’t know we could “crack” their backs just like a chiropractor. In fact, physical therapists have always been performing manipulations when appropriate. Research demonstrates that, under the right circumstances, it can dramatically increase the chances of recovery from back pain. If you get into physical therapy within 14 days after the onset of your back pain, have no symptoms below the knee, and a few other key factors that the physical therapist can evaluate, you are 20 times more likely to have a successful outcome within 2 visits. Who wouldn’t want that!
Understand your dizziness and/or imbalance issues
Have you ever had an episode of dizziness and didn’t know why? Have you found that over time, your balance is not as great as it used to be? These symptoms can lead to decreased activity levels, anxiety, and a more sedentary lifestyle. With a thorough examination by your physical therapist, you may benefit from vestibular rehabilitation therapy.
The vestibular system is composed of parts of the inner ear, related nerves, and the brain which processes sensory information regarding balance and eye movements. Vestibular dysfunction is a major risk factor for falls.
Many factors can affect these issues, including age related degeneration of inner ear structures, medications (i.e., some antibiotics), head injuries, or potentially serious neurological conditions like stroke. Depending on the diagnosis, your therapist may perform some repositioning maneuvers. You may also be instructed in exercises designed to retrain the brain to adjust for disorienting signals, create new strategies to maintain balance, decrease dizziness, and improve your quality of life.
Reduce your persistent discomfort without even touching you.
Nothing seems to be working. You are stressed and anxious. You don’t know if this will ever get any better – even the doctors don’t know what is going on. Does this sound familiar?
Research shows that, in order to treat individuals with more complex issues, we need to begin to look at the psycho-social model (beliefs, fears, “the stories that we hold”) first before movement therapy. The way you think about pain can change how it feels.
What would this look like? It may take the form of sitting down for a brief period with your therapist one-on-one. They may use a booklet, slides, or even videos to assist. They will cover important concepts such as what pain is, factors that can influence it, how your body’s response/alarm system has become sensitized, and most importantly, what can be done to calm it down.
Understanding that your discomfort experience is influenced by your nervous system and how your brain processes pain will allow you to move better, think about your persistent discomfort differently, and push your physical comfort zone further.
Start your journey to pain-free living today.
Our experts are committed to providing effective, efficient, and compassionate care to help you live a pain-free, active life. Our passion is to help every patient reach their goals on their journey to recovery and optimal performance.