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Physical Therapy 101

Hi everyone!  As you are all probably well aware by now, I recently had a hip injury (if you missed the beginning of this saga, go here and then read almost every other blog post after that for the rest of the story!).  I’ve had a few mini-injuries here and there over the past 3.5 years of running, but this hip/butt pain was different.  So after asking around and trying a few things (yoga, a week off running, rolling the area with a massage ball) I realized that I needed to take this to a higher power, and made a phone call to a physical therapy office.  And I’m not going to lie, I was TERRIFIED!  I didn’t know how he’d diagnose me or what he’d have me do.  And I didn’t want him to tell me to stop running (although news flash: if running hurts, your PT will tell you to stop until it doesn’t hurt anymore.  Sorry.).  Even though I see lots of bloggers mention physical therapy or “PT” on their blogs all the time, I had no idea what to expect!  So for anyone who thinks they are injured and might need to visit a physical therapist, here’s a handy little PT 101 guide for you:

PT 101

How do you find one?  This one is actually easier than I thought – I just asked my runner coworker for a recommendation, gave them a call, and got an appointment right away.  This was the best way to do it because I knew he was covered by my insurance and that he came highly recommended by her.  If this won’t work for you, try asking employees at a local running store who they see, check out reviews online, or search for one that specializes in running/respects a runner’s need to get back to running.  Many runners have been injured, and if someone helped them get back to running they’ll be so excited to share that PT with you!  And a big draw for me was finding one that didn’t need a referral from a doctor.

What should you expect at your first appointment?  Everyone’s injury is different, but in general the first appointment is longer and is used to determine what the problem is, as well as give your PT a chance to come up with a game plan to get you stronger.  I asked the receptionist what to expect, and she gave me a brief idea that I’d be doing “tests” and that I should wear form-fitting clothing so the PT could see me move better.  I wore typical running clothes and my running shoes, but was too injured to run on day 1.  Instead, I was asked to walk around and do balance moves in bare feet, was poked around my hips to feel for the cause of pain, and had my strength checked.  It didn’t hurt, and I felt like I could share my story and my current pain level to help give him an idea of what was going on.  He took all of the information and used it to come up with a diagnosis for me.

What are these “PT exercises” everyone is talking about?  At the end of each appointment (including the first one), I received a sheet of exercises to work on between now and my next appointment.  They were each demonstrated to me, and I also got the chance to try them out to make sure I was doing them right.  Each exercise should be marked with the amount of reps as well as how often to do them.  And yes, you need to do them!  This is what helps you build strength and heal.  He also recommend safe forms of cross training that I could do while I was banned from running.

IMG_7215Not sure why I’m smiling in these drawings.  These were tough!

What are the rest of your appointments like?  The other four appointments I had were held once a week and involved doing different exercises while my PT watched and took  notes on my progress.  This sounds way more intimidating than it actually was!  Most of the time I was given an exercise to do (for example, 20 bridges on a stability ball) and while I did them we talked about random stuff to pass the time.  He’d occasionally give me tips or we’d discuss why a particular move was so beneficial for me, and how to make the move harder in the future once I’d mastered it.  He also took a video of me running and analyzed my form as well as how my injury was affecting other parts of my body when I ran.

IMG_7214

What do you do after you’re discharged from PT?  Keep doing those exercises!  My PT gave me tips on how to keep going with my exercises and which ones I should do to keep building strength.  Because I don’t need a referral to go there, he said I can come back whenever I think I need it and he’ll take a look at what’s going on.  And he said if I’m having any issues I can send him an email too.  I love the ongoing support!

IMG_7398Slowly getting back to running so I don’t have to go back to my PT!

Physical therapy – and anything related to a running injury – can be pretty intimidating when you’re a newbie.  Hopefully these tips will make you feel more comfortable about getting started with PT before your injury gets too crazy!  Recovery is different for everyone, so listen to your doctor, your PT, and your body to make sure you’re on track.

Have you ever gone to PT?  What was the hardest part for you?  What do you recommend to an injured runner?

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27 thoughts on “Physical Therapy 101

  1. I loved going to PT because I loved my therapist, and I loved getting better. I’m glad that you had a good experience (and that you have such fantastic visual aids :D). These will help so much as we start training!

    1. Mine was awesome! He liked hockey and we had a ton to talk about, plus I loved when he would tell me that I was doing so much better at certain exercises. It’s such an exciting moment to realize that it’s working and that you are getting stronger!

    1. Nice! I feel like those two things are the most important. I always wondered when my injury was big enough to need PT, but I could definitely tell. Running was so painful!

    1. Oh good! This is exactly why I wrote it! I was so nervous but it ended up being a great experience – nothing like my doctor from back in January who made me feel awful the whole time. I hope you stay injury-free though!

    1. Nice! And it’s so true that you need to find the right person. I got really lucky with mine, but I’ve also had crazy doctors in the past. I’m up in Alaska but I’m hoping we’ve got some people here who could use that NYC doctor!

    1. Haha well I didn’t need it until I was so injured that I couldn’t run anymore! I love my PT but I’m hoping we don’t become BFFs and hang out every week. That would get expensive and would probably mean no running for a while!

    1. I started to really look forward to it! And yeah, doing the exercises at home takes so much time, plus I do a bit of yoga for runners and I foam roll too so it’s like 30 minutes every day that I’m taking for recovery. But it does help so I guess it’s worth it!

  2. I love the little PT drawings too! You’re smiling because the drawing is smiling, hehe! You’re supposed to be happy while doing them! Hey, thanks for sharing them! Time to strengthen those hips! 😀

    1. Hahaha I guess so! These were my first ones and they were so hard for me to do while I was in so much pain. He’s given me new ones each week but I still do some of these and they’ve gotten a lot easier over the past month.

  3. I am just finishing up two months of PT appointments for a cranky IT band. The exercises really work and I was able to return back to running 2 weeks ago. PT has really given me great tools to help strengthen the area around my IT band

  4. I’ve never had to go to PT so this was really helpful to give me an idea of what happens in those offices! I get confused for a PT all the time being a personal trainer and am constantly referring out so I’m glad to get a little insight into their world.

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