Physical Therapy: The Medicine that Cures

When people are injured, it’s important to as soon as possible restore function and movement to some reasonable form.

Everyone is eager to get back to their life, job or recreational activities, but the pain of injury is difficult, disruptive and discouraging to one’s normal activities. And the longer the injury drags out, the more likely depression will ensue.

The ticket to success in overcoming an injury is early mobilization. But this has to be done within reason, with patience and with an understanding of the body mechanics relevant to the injured body part.

The plan tailored to the injury and level of conditioning is the physical therapy. It remains the cornerstone of recovery and preventing further injury. Coaching by a physical therapist is critical to planning the recovery and doing no further harm. A good plan and continued mentoring by the therapist will ensure a speedy recovery.

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The basics of therapy during the initial acute phase are well known: rest, ice, compression and elevation (R.I.C.E.). Early mobilization of the injured part within reason, as well as the rest of the body, is beneficial. It continues to maintain muscle tone, which starts to atrophy after 24 hours of inactivity. The additional weakness and stiffness needs to be minimized rather than creating an additional liability. Essentially, increased circulation helps promote healing.

Convalescence from a significant injury is often frustrating and has its ups and downs. During the recovery phase, it’s key to remain within certain boundaries to avoid over-training.

Nonetheless, several variables have to be monitored by a physical therapist and your healthcare provider to stay on course. Recapturing strength, endurance and range of motion are the goals for recovery. Although some common patterns emerge for certain injuries, we are all individuals who bring different considerations to the challenge. We often think of these as baby steps to recovery.

When the pain of the acute phase subsides, typically there is weakness that remains. Getting back to a functional level of activity can take more time than you wish. Listening to your body is important. Also, using the expertise of the physical therapist and maintaining an open dialogue with the therapist will get you to your goals as soon as possible.

Remember, it does take time to regain your normal level of endurance. Along the way, learning the best body mechanics for your activities, and getting and maintaining a level of strength suitable for the job are critical to getting better and staying that way. Physical therapy is the medicine that cures.

– Dr. Bruce Kaler

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