Is An Ounce of Prevention Really Worth A Pound of Cure?
Precision Performance welcomes guest blogger Jason Smith to discuss the benefits of seeking out a trained Physical Therapist before an injury even occurs:
More than likely, if you are an adult in today’s society, you have met someone who has suffered a back injury, a shoulder injury, or a hip or knee injury. For most, these injuries result in drastic life changes such as an inability to work, an inability to compete, or even an inability to care for one’s self.
As a physical therapist, far too often, I hear patients say “I just reached up and my shoulder popped” or “I just bent down like I normally do and I strained my back.” Patients are typically under the impression that one wrong move or one stroke of bad luck resulted in an acute injury leaving them feeling disappointed, frustrated, and desperate for a cure.
I make a living assisting patients in finding the appropriate “cure” for their ailments and I take great pride in doing so. However, the age old saying holds true, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
The discrepancy then lies in how these injuries could have been prevented. Are these injuries really the result of “ONE wrong move” or “ONE stroke of bad luck?”
Perhaps, but I believe that in most cases there is far more to the story. I believe the story really starts with long-standing muscle imbalances and altered mobility of joints. Even for athletes, blown ACLs, subluxed patellas or rotator cuff tears are often a result of a repetitive pattern in which certain muscles do their job and certain muscles do not.
Once an injury has occurred, you may hear; “your rotator cuff is torn because your humeral head is gliding anteriorly and superiorly into your tendons when you lift your shoulder up. This is happening because the capsule on the back of your shoulder is tight which is a consequence of your sitting posture at work with your shoulders rounded” or “Your daughter’s knee cap is dislocating because her gluteal muscles are weak allowing her hips to turn inward when she walks, runs, or squats which cause her knees to come together. This results in the structures on the outside of the knee becoming tight and pulling on her knee cap while the structures on the inside of the knee are becoming stretched out.” However, these abnormalities were present prior to the actual injury.
Physical therapy is the only profession that focuses on the cause of the injury, or movement, that lead to the injury. We are a doctoral field with a unique body of knowledge that establishes us as the experts of movement. We are adept in detecting which muscles are weak or tight or which way are you moving that compromises a joint.
What does this mean? Certain injuries or pain could be avoided with preventative care. High-level athletes are taking advantage of this and the general public should be able to as well. The American Physical Therapy Association is advocating for physical therapy prophylactic treatment and there is a movement for insurances to cover preventative care by physical therapists.
We go to the dentist for check ups in order to avoid problems before they start. Why not prevent our headaches, shoulder pain, knee pain, or back pain before it starts? Why not have a movement specialist identify a muscle imbalance before we tear our ACL?
How do we take advantage of this? For many insurances, scripts are no longer necessary in order to see a physical therapist and direct access without a physician’s referral is legal in all 50 states. I recommend a private practice outpatient clinic because they will have the most freedom to develop an individualized treatment plan and will be the most invested in continuing education. I also recommend seeking a specialized clinician. Like other medical professions, we have residency and fellowship trained therapists.
For preventative care, a board certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist would be ideal, they can be identified by the letters OCS after their names. Fellows of the American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapy are the most highly trained clinicians in our field, identified by the letters FAAOMPT.
Don’t wait until you have had an injury to seek care. Preventative care can help both high-level athletes and the public to live with less pain and injury. To search for a highly qualified physical therapist in your area, go to aaompt.org.
Jason Smith PT, DPT, Cert DN
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Nxt Gen Institute of Physical Therapy Orthopedic Resident