I want to encourage you to think of the physical therapist like you think of the dentist: see one regularly before things go wrong.
I don’t write this just to lure you into my clinic. This is my genuine philosophy. I walk the talk. I also believe re-envisioning physical therapy as preventative medicine could save massive healthcare dollars and improve quality of life. (Fewer joint replacements, less chronic pain, less disability, the list goes on).
Yesterday I told a friend (who mentioned that they are in physical therapy) that I also see a physical therapist regularly (often every month or two). They were surprised.
And yet, they shouldn’t be. I would love to live in a world where getting regular physical therapy “check-ups” or check-ins is normalized.
It’s normal to go to the dentist every 6 months. Others get weekly or monthly massages. You probably get an annual physical, even though the evidence shows that it is not a good use of your time before age 45, unless you are unwell.
“…while annual well visits are a familiar part of the health care system, a growing pile of evidence finds that for healthy people without any symptoms, these yearly physician exams are a waste of time and money—and in some cases may do more harm than good.”Time Magazine, published 01/10/2018, retrieved 10/11/2021
Why see a physical therapist regularly?
- You have old, but major injuries that can sometimes flare up
- You are active, and/or pushing yourself for a particular competition, or trying a new sport
- You want someone to help you prevent potential injury as you age
- You know you have some arthritis and want help managing it
- You notice changes in your balance
- Your physical well being is part of your profession — whether you teach yoga, other movement
- You want to get ahead of things before they come up.
If you’ve been to the dentist for a check-up on the 6 month, much of the justification is the same. Nothing needs to be “wrong” to get a professional physical therapy check-up.
When you create a long term relationship with a physical therapist, you also:
- don’t have to spend time every session explaining your history of injuries, surgeries or other aches and pains,
- you have some built in accountability to do the rehab exercises that your body needs,
- and you can feel more confident trying new movements, new poses, heavier squats and lifts
No Prescription Needed
Some physical therapy clinics are strict about requiring prescriptions from an MD or DO before you can set up an appointment. Many clinics are strict about following physical therapy prescription orders, like 2-3x/week for 6 weeks.
These physical therapy direct access laws* empower patients to skip the primary care visit, and get the help they need directly. (As a side note, physical therapists are trained to screen for “red flags”. PTs are trained to notice the rare occasion where someone’s aches and pains could have a cause beyond the scope of physical therapy and require imaging or emergency care).
*Direct access laws were mostly passed in the last 15 years, so in many cases the general public doesn’t know about them.
Depending on the condition (post-surgical situations do require following surgeon guidelines), rarely does a patient need 2 or 3 times a week physical therapy.
The goal of PT is often to develop new motor patterns, habits of movement and eventually strength. These are long term changes. Although you need frequent enough sessions to keep momentum going, new motor patterns and lifestyle changes usually don’t shift within one week. Making true strength changes requires many weeks.
The frequency is also up to my patients and clients and their unique needs: you can see me weekly, monthly, every 3 months, or — like some folks who work oversees — once a year.
Although I offer half hour appointments via telehealth, in person appointments are 60 minutes in a quiet space, at least twice as long as the average busy clinic’s one on one time with a physical therapist. We get as much done in one session as many clinics get done in 3.
Some patients even come to see me as a compliment to the other physical therapists that they work with because my location is less convenient or for insurance purposes.
But back to physical therapy as prevention:
We live longer lives, on average, than our ancestors.
We live more sedentary lives than we were evolved to live. (This is true even for the athletic among us).
If you, like many of my clients, are aiming for:
- optimal health, and
- you want to keep your original teeth AND keep your original joints
…It just makes sense to check in with a movement expert every now and then.
P.S. If you’d like to get on my schedule, online booking is simple: https://happyandwell.janeapp.com