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Physical Therapy:  Your First Stop When Pain Starts

Many people are still not aware of this, but you can come to physical therapy FIRST!!  No, you don’t need to see your doctor first.  No, you don’t need to go to the orthopedist first.  No, you don’t need to wait to have your pain treated.

Research has shown us time and again that if you address acute injuries within the first 24-72 hours, the amount of time to fully recover is cut to a fraction if you wait on treatment.  My time as a civilian intern at the United States Air Force Academy taught me a lot about this methodology.  How, you ask?  Because this is the exact system they implement in the treatment of our injured soldiers.

The reason is simple:  Address the injuries quickly, efficiently, and effectively and you cut healthcare costs tremendously and get people back to work ASAP.  At USAFA we had 1 main orthopedist on staff and a team of PTs.  Not every cadet treated needed to see the ortho.  Probably 10% required a consultation.  Not every patient needed imaging (which in their system could be ordered by PTs) nor required medications (which could also be ordered by PTs in their system) to begin feeling better.  Looking at movement allows a group of high skilled practitioners the ability to evaluate a patient first and determine if they need a battery of imaging, medications, and/or additional consultation.

We as PTs are uniquely qualified to assess movement.  A diagnostic image is a snap shot in time, but doesn’t tell you how your body is moving.  People have arthritis, spinal disc degeneration, and mild fraying of tendons and ligaments which are part of normal wear and tear and also a typical part of the aging process.  So, is it really necessary to take an image of every painful, stiff, or dysfunctional part of our body?  Not unless specific limitations of your movement, strength, or symptomatic behavior point us directly to that.  Then why do we run right to an X-ray before looking at ANYTHING else?  Before assessing movement.  Before assessing strength.  Before putting a finger on the dysfunctional area to determine if that could even be where the pain is coming from in the first place.

I pride myself in being the first stop for patients in our community for their orthopedical and neurological based pain.  The ability to assess movement and effect change on day one is imperative.  To immobilize and do nothing with a simple sprain or strain is to risk increasing your functional limitations and impairments and often times put you behind the 8-ball in your rehab process.

The top 2 examples I constantly give are following a jammed finger and after an ankle sprain.  When you jam your finger it swells, becomes painful to move, and is limited with grip strength.  That is normal.  It is our body’s way of saying “I’m hurt…take it easy”.  What your body isn’t telling you is to stop moving all together!  Rather, as we move the jammed and swollen finger, within a reasonable range of motion and pain level, the better your motion becomes and the less swollen and painful it is.

When your son or daughter comes home from practice with an acute ankle sprain and it is swollen up like a basketball, what is the best solution?  Should you go to the time tested R.I.C.E. (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation)?  Of course, that’s a good place to start.  But you had better throw an “M” on the end of that for MOVEMENT.  That doesn’t mean go running or get back to power lifting day 1, but work some ankle pumps, trace the A, B, Cs with your ankle.  Just like your jammed finger, get it moving a little and you will be amazed at how much better you start feeling and how much quicker you get back moving if you don’t immobilize your body.

So, what’s the take away here?  Choose PT FIRST!  There is no reason to wait 3 weeks to get seen, go through a battery of tests that may be completely unnecessary, spend 2 more weeks in an immobilizer, all to land in PT (where you should’ve started first), but with significantly greater mobility loss and weakened muscles.  All this from NOT moving.  Want to get out of pain quicker without losing motion or strength in the process?!  Come see your local Physical Therapist first.

Kyle Branday has been in practice for 15 years and a graduate of Quinnipiac University treating patients of all ages and ability levels.  Taking special interest in movement dysfunction, Kyle prides himself on diagnosis of both acute and chronic issues.  With training in dry needling, Selective Functional Movement Assessment, as well as Mulligan and McKenzie Techniques, Kyle is able to address your specific needs.  He can be reached in the Woodbridge office at (203) 389-4593.

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