Recently the New York Times ran an article about how to deal with the everyday aches and pains that accompany an active/sports lifestyle. The physicians interviewed for the most part said they recommend their patients to hold off on contacting professional help unless the problem persists beyond a usual rest period. The article got a ton of responses from readers, many of whom recommended physical therapy.
The two main therapists at The Spine Hospital at The Neurological Institute of New York, Megan Reinhardt, PT, DPT, MS and Evan Johnson, PT, DPT, MS, OCS took a particular interest in this article and the responses because they themselves both have an athletic background. Dr. Reinhardt is a triathlete and Dr. Johnson was a professional dancer and is now very active in coaching basketball.
Both Johnson and Reinhardt agree that athletes definitely don’t need to see the doctor for every ache and pain and that rest heals many problems. However, when it comes to persistent or recurrent pains they recommend seeing a physical therapist to find the underlying biomechanical process that may be contributing to the problem. Sometimes, as many of the article comments talked about, it is just a matter of finding out if certain muscles are too tight and how to stretch them or if certain muscles are not as strong as they need to be and how to build them up.
Furthermore, Johnson and Reinhardt say it can benefit athletes in general to have their form checked and a thorough flexibility and strength assessment by a physical therapist. They say to think of it is an “athletic service check” and that just like with your car, you don’t always want to wait until something big breaks down.
“All of us have at least slight differences in the symmetry of our muscles. Most of us are either right handed or left and tend to perform everyday as well as athletic activities with a certain style or pattern of muscle use,” says Dr. Johnson. “Having someone look at the way we move and check if we have tighter or weaker muscles on one side of the body, for example, can take us a long way toward preventing injury and restoring optimal muscle balance.”
Also see the New York Times Article: Sports Injuries; When to Tough it Out and Readers Comments: Sports Injuries; When to Tough it Out