You’ve read the Whole9 blog and It Starts With Food. You’re getting your nutrition dialed in and have even completed a Whole30®. You’ve given up your nightly cocktail (or three) and are sleeping better, having more fun, managing everyday stress with greater ease, socializing out in the sunshine, and have a much better understanding of your emotional issues with food.
You have most of our 9 Factors nailed down… now if you could only get a handle on “Healthy Movement.”
Most Of The Way Toward Whole Health
Healthy movement (incorporating exercise, active recovery, and injury prevention and rehabilitation) is intricately connected with the rest of our 9 Factors. Many folks who find Whole9 and the Whole30 are so excited about feeling better that they set a goal to exercise more. This is a healthy and desired outcome of “working the program” in your own life.
The only problem is that sometimes in our excitement to get in shape, we allow the exercise component (run, lift heavy weights, sprints, intervals, Tough Mudder!) to outweigh the active recovery component (slow cycling or walking, hiking in nature, massage, yoga or Pilates), and then we end up entering the world of injury rehabilitation.
Listen To Your Aches And Pains
It starts with “that shoulder thing” with your overhead lifts, or the twinge in your knee as you go down the stairs, or the back pain that keeps you standing in the rear of the room at meetings… and it progresses from there. Of course, it sounds like a simple thing to fix – just rest, right? But as we know, just resting often isn’t enough to fix the underlying issue–and what some of us call “rest,” us physical therapists would call “pushing it.”
So what should you do to ensure the best possible outcome? Here are some tips from the PT trenches:
- Stop the painful activity. Now. Do not push through that last set of lifts; do not wait until the back pain prevents you from getting out of bed: get help NOW! Studies show that early access to physical therapy services is beneficial, so don’t put this off! (And don’t call it “rest” if you just go lighter, do less reps, or slightly change the movement. We’re onto you.)
- Realize that in many states you have the right to direct access to physical therapy. State laws and practice acts differ; but, in many states you do not need to see a physician prior to receiving an evaluation from a licensed physical therapist.
- If you do see a doctor, you may have to ask for a physical therapy referral. If your doctor says that you don’t need physical therapy after an injury or surgery, be a strong advocate for yourself and state that you would like to at least have an evaluation by a licensed physical therapist.
- Proceed to a top notch physical therapist. Ask around for recommendations; chances are that your coach, massage therapist, chiropractor, or fellow exercise enthusist knows the right person.
- Look for a PT. with excellent manual therapy skills. Your ideal physical therapist will put their hands on you and treat you manually versus just hooking you up to machines.A great physical therapist combines manual therapy (soft tissue work, joint mobilizations, instrument assisted therapy with tools or dry needling), therapeutic exercise (mobility drills, specific muscle strengthening exercises), and neuromuscular re-education (balance training, spinal stabilization exercises, agility drills).
- Look for a PT who sees you as a person, not just another cog in the caseload. A sign that the PT is the right fit is that they take the time to listen to you, do a thorough evaluation, discuss their findings with you in terms you can understand, and work with you to set appropriate goals.
- Make sure your evaluation is thorough. A thorough evaluation includes an examination of not just the painful joint/muscle, but an overall assessment of your posture and functional movement. A good physical therapist doesn’t “chase the pain,” they assess you fully to determine the cause of the pain. (For example, a lack of hip strength can contribute to knee pain, while the opposite hip motion can contribute to shoulder pain).
- See your PT during each and every visit. In follow up appointments, you should be treated by the physical therapist, as opposed to being greeted and then sent to do exercises with a tech. Your physical therapist should discuss your progress at each visit, giving you appropriate home exercises and suggestions for decreasing pain throughout the day.
- Consider going out-of-network. Understand that finding quality care may involve going to a PT who isn’t part of your insurance company–or any insurance company. There are many reasons that a quality PT would be in a cash based practice, the most important being that we care about you and don’t want your care to be dictated by insurance companies. You can read more about my reasons for being “out-of-network” in this article on my website.
- Don’t get too caught up in your test results. Just because you have an MRI that shows “disc degeneration” or “labral tear” doesn’t mean that the disc or torn labrum is the source of your pain. Diagnostic tests are useful, but often don’t correlate with the findings from your physical evaluation. Pain is a complex phenomenon, and all factors need to be taken into consideration when formulating a treatment plan.
Get Back To 9 Out of 9 Factors
With a bit of homework on your part, you will find the right physical therapist to assist you in keeping a good balance of all nine factors in your Whole9 Life –including a return to healthy movement.
For additional resources on finding the right physical therapist for you, we’d like to suggest Eric Cressey’s 7 Tips For Your Physical Therapist Visit. As always, if you’re a healthcare provider with advice, or a patient who can contribute to the conversation, please feel free to leave a comment below.
Ann Wendel holds a BS in physical education studies with a concentration in athletic training from the University of Delaware, and an MS in physical therapy from the University of Maryland. She is a Certified Athletic Trainer (ATC), a licensed physical therapist, and a Certified Myofascial Trigger Point Therapist (CMTPT). Ann has completed intensive training in Thai Yoga Therapy and Pilates teacher training. She currently runs Prana Physical Therapy in Alexandria, VA.
For more information about Ann’s consulting specialties, click here.
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