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How physiotherapy can help

In my role as a physiotherapist over the last 15 years, I have helped people in many different settings recover from a variety of musculoskeletal injuries and conditions. Often, clients first come to me because they are hoping I can decrease their pain. However, as we talk further, it frequently becomes clear that their pain is also significantly affecting their ability to participate in the activities they love to do and negatively impacting their quality of life.

Ultimately, relieving pain is an important part of getting back to normal. Physiotherapists can use tools, such as manual therapy (i.e. work with their hands), rehabilitative exercise and modalities (e.g. ultrasound, acupuncture, etc.), to increase your comfort. We also often work in a collaborative practice with other allied health-care providers to maximize your pain relief.

However, restoring physical function is, in my opinion, an even more important role that physiotherapists can play. Often, people unnecessarily restrict themselves from activities due to the fear that participation might make their condition worse or cause a relapse. In reality, in many cases, staying engaged in the things you love, despite pain, is the healthiest thing you can do for yourself; you just need to know how to do it safely. Physiotherapists can be your guide in making these decisions.

Clients often comment, “I should have called you sooner,” when they realize how much power they have over their own comfort and that some of their self-imposed activity restrictions were unnecessary. A physiotherapist can provide education about the anatomy of your condition to help you understand why you have pain and which activities are safe to continue.

However, it is sometimes difficult to know when to reach out for help because we all have small aches and pains that come and go. In my experience, this general formula works pretty well:

Rule 1: If you have the “Oh, no” moment and know that you have hurt yourself, see a physiotherapist as soon as possible. We are trained to treat acute injuries. We can help you get comfortable and back in action sooner if we see you right away.

Rule 2: If you have a minor injury or pain but it isn’t significantly improving by the fourth day, you should see a physiotherapist. Acute inflammation from an injury often worsens for the first 48 to 72 hours, but should improve after that.

Rule 3: If you have a minor injury or pain but it hasn’t resolved within 10 days, you should have a physiotherapy consult. Minor injuries will heal within 10 days. If symptoms haven’t resolved, there might be an underlying issue that needs to be addressed.

Staying engaged in the activities you love is integral to maintaining a high quality of life. If you feel like you’re missing out, meet with a physiotherapist to discover what is possible for you.

Read this article on The Chronicle Herald website