Do I Need to See a Physical Therapist?

These are the signs to look out for

Whether you’re an exercise junkie, weekend warrior, or somewhere in between, you’ve probably experienced some aches and pains during a workout. This is especially true for people just getting started with an exercise routine either for the first time or after a long time off. And while some soreness isn’t usually a bad thing, there are instances in which it shouldn’t be ignored. If you’re hurting, your first thought may be to call your doctor, but it might make more sense to see a physical therapist, particularly if you are dealing with any of these ailments.

Sharp pain

After an intense couple of hours at the gym or perhaps a marathon pickup game out on the court, your back or knees may be hurting a little, but if it’s just a dull ache, rest – and perhaps a hot or cold compress – typically does the trick. However, if the pain is sudden and sharp, this could indicate something serious, such as a muscle strain or even a stress fracture.

Prolonged pain

If you’re of a certain age, you may recall a coach or gym teacher – or maybe even your dad –telling you to “walk it off” or “play through the pain” if you got hurt. And while this advice isn’t (hopefully) being given anymore, it’s something a lot of people still follow. But if pain persists and rest or hot or cold treatments don’t help, you’ll almost certainly do more harm than good if you keep going.

Pain medication isn’t working

When you first experienced pain, you probably popped some aspirin or another type of over-the-counter medication. If the discomfort worsened, perhaps you saw your doctor and were prescribed something stronger. But if nothing works to relieve your pain – or the relief doesn’t last very long – this is an indication that something is wrong, and you need to get checked out.

Why can a physical therapist offer that a general doctor can’t?

No matter what’s ailing you, it is always a good idea to first visit your doctor. He or she can diagnose the problem and offer a solution. If the issue is related to something mentioned above, there’s a good chance your doctor will refer you to a physical therapist (PT). A PT specializes in body movement and the musculoskeletal system. This type of medical professional can do things that a general practitioner can’t, including:

Improve body alignment

In many instances, pain can be avoided or reduced with better posture or balance. Through an assessment, a PT can identify where the issues are and then offer recommendations for specific stretches or exercises to correct alignment. They may also perform re-education massages to help the brain remember how to move the body properly.

Get you back in the game

Because PTs are adept at identifying and treating injuries – especially those related to sports – they know what it will take to get you fixed up and ready to go again. In addition to massage, they may suggest things like compression socks or sleeves, foam rolling, or blood flow restriction training (BFR). A relatively new type of treatment, BFR utilizes a compression cuff that’s wrapped around the upper part of a limb to restrict veins from sending deoxygenated blood from the body back to the heart. As a result, this creates new cell growth in muscles.

Figure out how you can prevent injuries

While a PT can be extremely helpful if you are hurt, you don’t have to wait until you’re aching to see one. Through tools like movement screens, a PT can identify where your weak spots are, so you know which areas to focus on. Using this information, along with things like your body type, posture, and diet, your PT will then be able to recommend the best exercises and workouts for you.

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