9 Ways to Get the Most Out of Physical Therapy

Paul L. Underwood
by Paul L. Underwood
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9 Ways to Get the Most Out of Physical Therapy

Our bodies are fragile things. So whether you’re a triathlete or a weekend warrior, you may want to consider enlisting a physical therapist (and a massage therapist) to help you navigate the inevitable aches and pains that stem from your fitness regimen.

That said, finding the right therapist isn’t as easy as looking one up in the phone book and not only because no one uses phone books anymore. That’s why we asked Under Armour senior exercise scientist Jeff Knight for some tips, and for what to say (and do) once you’ve established a relationship. Here’s what he told us:

1. MAKE SURE YOUR THERAPIST HAS A DETAILED APPRECIATION AND UNDERSTANDING OF YOUR SPORT

For example, if you are an injured runner, make sure your therapist is also a runner. This helps ensure you’re already speaking the same language and might even share some of the same experiences and challenges.

2. DOCUMENT YOUR PAIN OR ISSUE

Write down detailed notes before your first visit so you can discuss them with your therapist. Therapists are awesome at feeling problem spots but if you can get them on the right track, you will speed up the process. Know how long you’ve had the pain, what your training was like preceding the pain, what your training is like at the time of the visit and whether it’s been getting better or worse.

3. THERAPISTS COME IN ALL FLAVORS

From Eastern medicine to Western medicine. From massage-based to chiropractors. Etcetera. There is no such thing as a perfect therapist. There is only a perfect therapist for you. So find the one who aligns with the way you think about medicine and therapy. If that’s different from your BFF, no worries.

4. PUT A LIMIT ON NUMBER OF VISITS BEFORE YOU SEE RESULTS

Most therapists have told me that if a patient doesn’t see results in 4–6 sessions, they should consider other options.

5. DO YOUR HOMEWORK

If a therapist gives you something to do between visits, do your best to follow their instructions.

6. BE PATIENT, ONE VISIT MAY NOT NAIL IT

Instead look for progress. (A lesson in patience and trust you might have already learned from your fitness routine.)

7. TAKE NOTES OF YOUR PAIN AND SYMPTOMS TO MONITOR CHANGE

It’s easy to think “Oh, I’ll know when I’m getting better,” but the truth is, it is hard to tell. Use a scale from 1–10  (10 being a lot of pain, 1 being no pain) to track your symptoms once you start therapy. This helps you remember how you felt two weeks ago.


READ MORE > A RUNNER’S GUIDE TO INJURY PREVENTION


8. BE REALISTIC ABOUT COST

If your favorite therapist is $200 per session and there is no way you can do that, ask him or her for recommendations. Chances are they’ll be keen on helping you get the care you need. Also, many towns have massage schools. So if you’re on a tight budget but need some work, look into that option. It might not be the best care you’ve ever had, but it will be a budget-friendly option.

9. EMBRACE PREHAB

If you know you get hip pain every time you train for a marathon, go ahead and plan (and budget!) a routine visit to your preferred therapist. Going in once a month may help prevent those issues in advance — and it’s easier to keep an issue from creeping up than it is to make an issue go away. I can’t recommend this enough, especially if you consider yourself an experienced athlete.

About the Author

Paul L. Underwood
Paul L. Underwood

Paul is a writer based in Austin, Texas. He tweets here, he Instagrams there and he posts the occasional deep thought at plunderwood.com. He’s probably working on a run mix as you read this.

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