3 Reasons to Wait Before Trying Physical Therapy

Matt has been the "Grill Master" for his family's Memorial Day picnic since his dad first handed over the coveted apron and tongs nine years ago. He bears this honor with pride, but this year, between the tweak in his low back while moving the family cooler and standing all day at the grill, he found himself in a familiar situation. Jim calls it "being down in the back," and it's a pain he's familiar with. His doctor recommended a round of physical therapy, tons of imaging, and a muscle relaxer, but his wife says he should visit the chiropractor first. She's probably not wrong.

Many folks think that “If I just stretch and exercise, my problem will go away.” When you have muscle pain and stiffness, it's easy to understand why they would think that. But the truth is, the last thing you want to do is stretch or exercise muscles that move damaged joints or tissue. Muscle spasms that don’t go away or stiffness that causes pain with motion could mean you have a more serious underlying condition like a herniated disc, a pinched nerve, or torn ligaments and tendons. Almost every day, a new patient comes into our office and says that physical therapy didn’t work or made their pain worse. Unfortunately, physical therapy is often misused and prescribed for issues it isn't designed to help. Conventional wisdom has patients undergo physical therapy after drugs and injections stop working but before surgical intervention. In this blog post, we will discuss three reasons why you might want to wait before trying physical therapy and instead see your Integrative Chiropractor first.

1) Physical Therapy can't fix nerve issues or bone-on-bone issues.

Physical therapists are experts in treating injury and disorder, usually in the joints and muscles surrounding them. They work with the patient to restore movement in muscles and joints by using a variety of techniques like strengthening exercises and stretching. While restoring mobility is essential, this should be done only after the underlying cause is addressed.

2) Physical Therapy does not fix the underlying cause of your problem.

Exercises to strengthen the area may exacerbate symptoms, cause more pain, and lead to further damage if the underlying cause is not addressed first. Physical therapy will not restore cushion to a degenerated disc. In fact, if there is pressure on a nerve, it will most often make the nerve pain worse. If you have bone-on-bone damage in your knee, exercise usually will cause pain. Physical therapy will not restore the lost cushion to the meniscus simply by doing exercises. Once you have corrected the issue, you will get a much better result from physical therapy, and it will actually help you prevent further injury.

3) It is a gateway to medication and surgery.

Because most physical therapists require a physician's referral to start treatment, patients are already in the surgical intervention pipeline when they begin therapy. If they aren't adequately prepared for the length of treatment, the soreness and discomfort that they will experience, and the knowledge that they likely aren't treating the root cause of their symptoms, the patient will often be led to believe that surgery or long term pain medications are their only options. Physical therapy should be used in conjunction with an integrative approach that focuses on treating the root cause of the injury rather than just the symptoms. Chiropractic care can help address the spinal misalignment that occurs after injury and daily life, provide immediate relief from pain, and aid in restoring mobility to the injured area. Integrative medical providers that work alongside chiropractors can help reduce muscle spasms and pain with a simple procedure called a Trigger Point Injection. Once the body is back in balance, a program of exercise and rehabilitation is excellent at preventing future injury and flare-ups. Matt listened to his wife and saw his chiropractor about his aching back. After a couple of adjustments, mobility was restored, and the muscle spasms went away after a few days. Within a couple of weeks, the pain was completely gone. He avoided a ton of costly tests, doctor's appointments, and, by Father's Day, he was operating the grill again, feeling right as rain. If you are struggling with pain and ready to get back to life to the fullest, Vitality Integrative Wellness can help. Schedule your consultation today!