When Physical Therapy Can Help

Do you need physical therapy? Boot camp. Spinning class. Half-marathon training. Sometimes the road to getting fit can leave you wincing on the sidelines. Here’s why a few sessions with a physical therapist might be your fastest route to recovery especially after a subchondroplasty procedure.

There’s been a shift away from the idea that plain rest is best for recovery. “We used to treat these injuries with the RICE method — rest, ice, compression, and elevation. There’s still some of that, but studies show that the best way to speed up recovery is to get you moving as soon as possible. If you sit at home doing nothing until it’s healed, your ankle will be stiff and weak, and the rest of your body will also be out of shape.” For this reason, doctors now prescribe physical therapy to keep you active and prevent the injured area from atrophying.

Move It to Improve It

This active rehab approach is backed by a host of new research. “Recent studies comparing surgery to physical therapy for the treatment of problems like knee and back pain indicate that seeing a therapist can often result in a better outcome — with less medication and reduced cost.

What Happens in Physical Therapy

If you’ve never been to physical therapy, picture a facility not unlike your local health club. Most clinics are housed in gyms, hospitals, or private offices and contain equipment such as treadmills, exercise balls, weights, and foam rollers.

Once you’ve checked in, you’ll meet your therapist, who will test your strength, range of motion, joint stability, and flexibility to determine what underlying issues may have contributed to your injury. After the evaluation, your therapist will come up with a treatment plan to rehab the injured area, strengthen the surrounding muscles, and prevent you from getting hurt in the future.

On subsequent visits you’ll perform a series of stretching and strengthening exercises. Your treatment may also call for ice or heat, massage, ultrasound (to reduce inflammation and pain), and/or electrical stimulation (a painless electrical current directed at the injured muscle to improve blood flow, increase strength, and relieve discomfort). You’ll be asked to do the exercises a few times a week on your own. “There’s only so much we can accomplish during an hour which is why a home program is very beneficial.

Minor injuries — a strained glute or an ankle twist — should feel significantly better within five visits (two per week), each of which lasts from 30 to 60 minutes depending on the therapists discretion. More involved conditions, including tendinitis and plantar fasciitis, usually require about 12 visits over the course of four to six weeks.

Can Physical Therapy Prevent Injury?

Our clinics offer preventive evaluations to determine muscle weaknesses or other imbalances that could lead to injury. If a problem is identified, the therapist will provide exercises to keep an issue like tight hamstrings from turning into something more serious, such as a hamstring tear. Indeed, in one study, PT reduced ACL injuries by 41 percent.