A few weeks ago, I discussed the role that physical therapy has in maintaining optimal health and slowing down the effects of aging. Today, I want to expand on that.
As some would say: in this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes. Our futures are never truly set in stone, and our lives are unpredictable and can play out in many ways. But can you predict the future of your health? As it turns out, you might be able to.
One of the reasons I chose to get into Physical Therapy as a career was because of my fascination with the human body. We all have one, yet the knowledge about how it works barely scratches the surface. There are still many mysteries around the human body, especially when it comes to concepts like nutrition and many emerging fields like stem cell therapy. Luckily, there is a lot we do know about the musculoskeletal system.
One thing we know is almost everyone (80% of the general population) will have a back injury at some point of their life, resulting in at least one week of lost productivity. This is not only expensive for companies to the tune of billions of dollars, but to the time lost that could be spent with family and friends. Sitting for work or travel also predisposes you to back pain (and neck pain!) in many ways. We sit so much these days, that sitting is now considered the new smoking.
Furthermore, most sports carry a 20% injury rate, with the major exception being running, for which some statistics estimate that as many as 90% of runners miss training time every year due to injury. A lot of skiers and soccer players are at high risk for torn ACLs. We also know that females are at a higher risk for torn ACLs than males simply due to gender-specific anatomical differences. If this scares you, well, doing nothing is also bad, as sitting on the couch and not participating in any physical activity leaves you at a ton of risk for many chronic diseases, like obesity and heart disease.
As you can see, the future can be bleak regardless of how you want to spin it. As a clinician, this is very frustrating because so much of this is easily avoided.
One or two sessions with someone who understands the demands of your sport or even just your lifestyle can shed light on the common injuries they entail and how muscles and joints should be trained. All this can take your injury risk from very high to almost zero! From a movement perspective, all humans should be able to hinge, squat, carry, push, pull and run safely. Not only should we be able to do it, but excel in it and include it in training no matter what your activity of choice.
As an example, it’s amazing to me time and time again how many people run for exercise and have never been screened or taught proper technique to help minimize the impact it can have. I know that at some point, these runners might encounter shin splints, stress fractures, or other debilitating leg injuries if they aren’t careful. Physical therapists have the foresight to prevent these issues from reaching a threshold. Even counseling on proper footwear can save you from a total knee replacement in 20 years.
Understanding how the body works as a unit is very crucial and all too often gets overlooked by many folks who label themselves “experts”. Screens like the FMS (for movement), SFMA (for those experiencing some pain with movement), and a simple range of motion check using the joint by joint approach can help a knowledgeable therapist or coach tailor a program that is individualized specifically for you.
Certain joints are supposed to be mobile and others are supposed to provide stability. When something along the chain is not doing it’s originally-intended job, other body parts will have to pick up the slack. So if the ankle is tight when it is supposed to be mobile, that stress can go up to the knee, which can then go up to the hip and even the back. You may feel pain in your back and go through an extensive treatment program for it, but never address the real root of the problem all the way down at your ankle, leading to future recurrence of similar or worse issues.
We see this as blaming the victim and ignoring the criminal. How does this joint-by-joint approach play into the context of your activity or sport? If you can put these two pieces together, the future of your health and longevity in your activity becomes much more clear.
Inevitably, most people will end up on a Physical Therapy table at some point or another. You can choose to come see us before the pain sets in and let us see what the future might have in store for you, or wait until it surprises you and your orthopedic surgeon recommends surgery as the only option for your pain. Your choice here is an easy one, and you can let us help you with that!
by Dr. Bo Babenko, DPT
Dr. Bo Babenko, DPT is the Head Physical Therapist at Halevy Life.
A native New Yorker, Bo started his career working as an EMT, athletic trainer (ATC), and strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS). He has continued the pursuit of clinical excellence, focusing on orthopedic and sports physical therapy. Prior to joining Halevy Life, Bo worked in Dubai’s functional fitness world helping to raise the bar of human performance.
A former triathlete, Division I college football player, and currently competing in Olympic weightlifting and CrossFit, Bo pushes his body to the limits to better understand how to optimize his clients and patients recovery. Bo utilizes a holistic approach (i.e.sleep, nutrition, etc.) combined with a evidence-based manual therapy techniques to address the pain, limitations, and setbacks he treats.