One of the things I absolutely love about the physical therapy profession is our ability to teach our patients how to take care of themselves. We are so fortunate to have the education and knowledge to help our patients prevent further injury to the best of our ability.
The answer that any business-minded physical therapist will tell you is that you should ALWAYS come see us! But that’s not always feasible for everybody… I will tell you that I firmly believe you should seek guidance whenever you start a new workout or exercise routine to ensure proper form and reduce your risk of injury. As human movement experts, physical therapists are more than qualified to help smoothly transition and initiate new exercise regimens.
In my 8 years of working as a physical therapist, I’ve learned a lot about what someone’s body can tolerate in terms of exercise and physical activity. Here’s a pretty unpopular opinion: body aches and pains are normal! Of course everyone wants to be pain-free all the time, but that’s just not reality. In fact, it’s why the phrases like “it hurts so good,” and “feel the burn,” even exist! Working out and exercising pushes our body beyond its limits so it can continue to strengthen and improve.
Back to the question at hand: self care versus physical therapy. As I mentioned above, always seek advice and instruction prior to initiating any new workout or physical activity to avoid injury. That being said, my advice, which may differ from other physical therapists, is to evaluate your pain/discomfort on three aspects:
If your pain is piercingly sharp, my recommendation is to seek physical therapy right away. If the pain lasts longer than 48 hours, I recommend getting it checked out. Lastly, if the pain is super consistent - for example every single time you step downstairs it hurts in exactly the same way - having someone fully evaluate it is the best way to go.
Our body will have aches and pains here and there when we transition into a new workout routine, or go skiing for the first time in the season, or initiate a running program after sitting on the couch for months. These are expected and relatively normal. However, if you notice that the pains become sharp, last a long time, and are consistent - give us a call! To get you started with your new routine or evaluate your pain, we can utilize our telemedicine platform! This allows us to gather a full history of your pain/injury and complete a movement screen. Then we can get you started on your road to recovery as quickly as possible through exercise and advice - and ultimately avoid serious injury!
Lisa Corken, PT, DPT
Bob Cranny, PT