Sustaining an injury that limits your physical activity can be really tough, both mentally and physically. You may be itching to return to your regular, healthy routine—which includes the gym or other forms of sport and exercise. But how do you decide on the right comeback?
If you return too soon, you risk re-injury and increase your chances of developing a chronic injury. If you wait too long, you face unnecessary deconditioning that will make it harder to catch up to where you left off.
One thing that can make this hard call a little easier is having the advice and guidance of a physiotherapist. In fact, a study by Deyle et al. (2005) shows that adding even a small number of additional physio visits for things like manual therapy and supervised exercise leads to at least double the improvement, compared to just home exercise. People that attended physiotherapy saw a 52% improvement in functional scores while the home exercise group only saw a 26% improvement. We know that physiotherapy can help you get better sooner, here are four more ways your physio can help you return to the activities you love most.
Primary care practitioner on your side
Your physiotherapist will act as your primary care practitioner (similar to a family doctor). While there is plenty of advice online, none of that compares to having a trained professional who knows your history and can guide you through re-entry to exercise. Your physiotherapist can give you the green light for a gradual return, once the pain and swelling of your injury have subsided and you have a full range of motion.
Did you know that Canadian physiotherapists have extensive training in initial assessment and recognition of potential red-flags or health risks? Physiotherapists are trained to spot red-flags which can be anything from fractures and herniations to chronic conditions or systemic diseases like infection or even diabetes. So you’re in good hands.
Create your guided, personalized plan
Your injury is unique. Your plan should be, too—something that takes into account your schedule, work and home demands, and the sport or exercise you want to get back to. Physiotherapists can assess your current state post-injury, help you determine your goals and set an appropriate timeline for getting there. They may also recommend concurrent treatments, like therapeutic massage or naturopathic medicine, to maximize your efforts to return to exercise.
Help you build strength and stamina
Your body loses conditioning quickly, so while you may have enjoyed exercising at a certain level, it’s not wise to jump right back where you left off, before your injury. Your physiotherapist can determine how hard to push, usually starting at 25-50% of your maximum capacity and gradually moving up in increments (as long as you don’t encounter any pain or issues in the injured area). Through monitored conditioning and assigned, at-home exercises, they can help you find the right balance. Your physiotherapist can work with you to form a treatment plan, deciding the type, frequency, and duration of exercises your need to increase your strength and stamina without setbacks. Not only that but, physiotherapists are experts in understanding what type of braces, orthotics, or gait aids might benefit you. These tools work by helping to re-distribute weight from an affected part of the joint to unaffected parts. This can be very effective in helping you build strength without pain or pressure limiting your movement.
Teach you proper techniques to avoid re-injury
Physiotherapists can assess the technique you had for your sport or exercise before getting hurt and determine if that contributed to your injury. Then, they can teach you improved techniques for better performance and reduced risk of injury.
The same idea applies to returning to work, as approximately ¼ of employees who return to work with a back injury are likely to re-injure themselves. Physiotherapy is a valuable tool to help educate you in more ergonomically friendly postures and stances during work, sport, and recreation. Think of it as a type of injury prevention.
The first step to getting back to your healthy routine is an assessment from a physiotherapist book your appointment today and start getting better!
Deyle GD, Allison SC, Matekel RL, Ryder MG, Stang JM, Gohdes DD, et al. Physical therapy treatment effectiveness for osteoarthritis of the knee: a randomized comparison of supervised clinical exercise and manual therapy procedures versus a home exercise program. Physical therapy. 2005;85:1301- 1317.
Keeney, B. J., Turner, J. A., Fulton-Kehoe, D., Wickizer, T. M., Chan, K. C. G., & Franklin, G. M. (2013). Early Predictors of Occupational Back Re-Injury: Results from a Prospective Study of Workers in Washington State. Spine, 38(2), 178–187.