by Erin Looney, DPT
What do you mean stop running?! Working out? I’m an active person! It will drive me absolutely bonkers to rest and do nothing! Ok, admit it. How many of you out there have avoided seeking treatment for those aches and pains out of fear that we will tell you to stop doing all things active and fun?
Believe it or not, the physical therapist’s goal is not to turn you into a couch potato! In fact, it’s the exact opposite. One of the most rewarding things for me is when I receive an email or card from a past patient telling me how excited they are about their recent race time or competition. Trust me, getting you back on your feet and back in the game is definitely my goal.
Ok, so how? It’s true that in recovery sometimes we need to take a step back in order to move forward. I believe in looking at the total picture. That “picture” is not only made up of my goals and objectives, but also your goals and objectives. My job is to work with you to evaluate areas that need improvement and areas that are not working as they should. I look to address the injured area, but also look to find the cause or source of the pain – the “why is this happening” factor. In most cases, I find the use of hands-on treatment to optimize tissue healing and restoration, combined with the use of modalities and a custom-tailored treatment plan is most effective. This is not all that different from most other physical therapists’ line of thinking.
Unfortunately, I find many are scared to reintroduce the activity that caused the injury. I believe this is often the missing link to full recovery. Research tells us that newly healed tissue needs to be exposed to gradual increases in stress to adapt and prepare the tissue to be strong enough to withstand forces generated from activity. So wouldn’t it make sense that gradual, re-introduction of sport specific activity (of course, under the guidance of a physical therapist) during the recovery phase be ideal? I think so.
So, the key is not always to stop the activity, but to reduce and gradually return to where you left off. Now the exact amount of reduction is obviously going to depend on the severity of injury. Would I be lying if I told you that I never tell a patient they need to stop running for a little bit? Yes. However, I can tell you that most of my patients continue some sort of fitness throughout therapy, and many of them don’t stop their activity at all!
I consider myself lucky to work with such a fun, active population and with a team of great practitioners. So if you find that you have questions or an annoying pain that’s lingering, call a PT. Contact us before it becomes a bigger issue. It may be something that we can quickly address and get you back on your feet and in the game.
Dr. Looney is a Physical Therapist at Boston Sports Medicine