What Comes After Physical Therapy
Have you ever completed Physical Therapy without being entirely sure what comes next? Have you seemingly recovered from an injury but then end up back in PT months later? If so, you’re definitely not alone. While Physical Therapy is essential and great for treating such a wide array of orthopedic and neurological conditions and injuries, often times patients aren’t sure what comes after they graduate from PT.
There are many reasons for this. In certain circumstances patients prematurely leave PT without a clear post-PT plan. This may be to save time or money, because symptoms are significantly reduced or perhaps because they are not satisfied with their progress.
As with other types of therapy such as psychotherapy, it is always best to plan an end date. As that date approaches you can communicate with your therapist as to how to make a safe and smooth transition into regular fitness activities. This concept is analogous in many ways to other non-orthopedic illnesses such as cancer, clinical depression, pneumonia or heart surgery. In all of these cases, just because the bulk of the treatment is finished and symptoms are under control or behind you doesn’t mean you’re out of the woods and are good to go 100%.
In many circumstances there should be a transition phase in between Physical Therapy and a return to advanced and/or previously normal fitness activities. This post-injury / post-rehab transition phase can be the difference between leaving an injury completely behind or finding yourself back where you started.
The greatest risk factor for injury is, previous injury. This means that if you’ve had a knee injury, ankle sprain or suffered from low back pain, you are at high risk for experiencing those injuries again. To reduce those chances, it is helpful to make smart decisions upon completing PT.
For example, say you’ve experienced a running injury such as a chronic hamstring strain, shin splints or Plantar Fascitis. You’ve gone through PT and feel really good. Perhaps you’ve begun light to moderate jogging for short durations on alternate days while doing targeted strength training and mobility exercises. You don’t have symptoms or they have decreased by 90% but you haven’t started to push it hard yet. Then, you finish PT and you’re suddenly on your own with limited guidance and maybe a false sense of total recovery.
This happens. To avoid it, make sure you communicate with your PT clearly throughout the treatment journey and come up with an exercise regimen together that gets you safely to the next level of health and performance in the weeks and months following PT.
In addition, there are personal trainers out there with advanced training in corrective exercise, functional training and post-injury rehab. They can help get you through that transition phase without a relapse. Whereas physical therapists are primarily experts in the injury rehabilitation process, many personal trainers are more geared towards fitness and exercise.
One strategy is to have your PT and the next coach or trainer you work with communicate as to the best strategy. Your PT knows as much about your injury and recovery than anyone. So it’s great to resource them as you move onto going it alone or working with the next wave of fitness professionals.
Contact On Your Mark Sports Massage and Fitness to help you find an expert personal trainer and massage therapist to help you navigate the post-physical therapy journey to optimal fitness and performance.
Mark Greenfield is a Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Personal Trainer and Active Release Techniques provider in New York City. He has over 16 years of experience helping clients reduce pain and prevent and recover from many types of orthopedic and sports injuries. His practice is centrally located in the heart of Midtown Manhattan just steps from Grand Central Station.