LIFE AFTER PHYSICAL THERAPY
Congratulations! You just completed your round of physical therapy. At this point you should be 100% back to where you want to be in the gym, your running plan, or whatever other goal you had. Now what? For weeks or months you have had a guide along the way and now you’re set free. It’s great news, but can also be scary. Here are a few quick tips to make sure you stay on the right track.
KEEP UP WITH YOUR HOMEWORK
During your recovery, you should have had exercises that you were working on that helped with some combination of strength, mobility or flexibility. Now that you feel recovered, it’s easy to start to think these aren’t important anymore. Don’t get overly confident! It’s important to keep working on what got you better. By continuing your exercises, it reinforces the new movements that you have been working on and helps to make sure you don’t end up back where you started. You probably don’t have to be doing them every single day, but make sure you keep up some sort of routine with them.
You should be excited to be lifting again, running without pain, or just walking up and down stairs without your knee hurting. It should feel great to be back. While you are (and should be) thrilled to be active again, don’t overdo it. You have to give your body time to build back up to where you were before. Let’s say you are a runner who wants to run 6 miles. If you are currently running 3 miles without pain, you can’t just jump to 6 miles next week. Take the time to build back up slowly to make sure you don’t aggravate your injury or create a new one. It probably took you some time to get to your old weight, mileage or activity. Give yourself some time to get there again.
DON’T EXPECT PERFECTION
It’s easy to think of your injury as completely healed. While this is probably true, it doesn’t mean that your shoulder, knee, or back won’t ever hurt again. It’s completely normal to have some mild discomfort every now and then even after you’re recovered. It doesn’t mean that you aren’t healed. It just means that as you start to push yourself, you might do a little more than what you were ready for. If you have some mild soreness in your injury area for a few days after a new workout, don’t stress. As long as it calms down quickly, there’s nothing to worry about. If it lasts longer than a few days, then reach out to your physical therapist to see if there’s any simple solution to the temporary soreness.
CONSIDER CONTINUING WITH YOUR PT
You might think that your therapist’s job and ability to help you is over once you’ve recovered. Most people don’t realize that physical therapists do far more than rehab major injuries. We are experts in watching how people move and seeing if there is any room for improvement. By working on a maintenance basis with your physical therapist going forward, it can make you move and feel better. It also can reduce the risk of further injury by spotting small problems before they become bigger problems. Just because you’re “graduated” from physical therapy doesn’t mean that you have to stop working with your therapist on getting you stronger, more mobile and reduce your chances of injury.