In my profession as an orthopedic physical therapist I am confronted daily with persons looking for the “miracle cure” and they want it YESTERDAY!! Never mind that their current condition developed over many years — they want it fixed right away. I do have to say that I also fall into this category when I have an injury; it is human nature, especially in this instant gratification society. However, most of us want someone else to “do something” to fix us and my job is to teach people how they can “ fix” themselves by taking a personal role in their own care.
The body is an amazing machine and if set up in the right environment can heal itself through many, many processes. The fact that the body is a machine is a very important concept to understand in that there are thousands of parts or “gears” that are very interrelated and if one thing is off it can affect multiple other systems. For the majority of conditions, there isn’t just one “cure” because we are all so different. So when someone tries to sell you the surefire “fix” and they are selling the same thing to everyone then it better raises a red flag….if it sounds too good to be true then it probably is!!! An example that I use is to think of an automobile and all of the intricate parts that work together to get you from one place to another. Tire salesmen will try to convince you that you need to buy the newest, most expensive, most technologically advanced tires to put on your car, which he claims gives you the perfect alignment, excellent traction, and precision control — However, he forgets to mention that even though those tires have your car in perfect balance if you don’t put gas in the car, oil in the engine, pads on the brakes, the coolant in the radiator, and sparkplugs and air filters on the engine —those fancy tires DO NOTHING FOR YOU!!! In that respect the body is no different to keep playing golf/tennis, etc — you have to maintain a degree of strength, flexibility, and coordination of your whole body.
If we look around these days we soon realize that the easy thing to do is NOT take care of our bodies as evidenced by the large proportion of people being obese. Being healthy is hard work and a physical therapist can help make that job much easier. Physical therapists have a unique place in the healthcare continuum. They are very highly educated in all systems of the body and the unique interactions of each. One main focus of physical therapist education is learning anatomy and biomechanics (or all of the parts of the body and how they move together). It is this knowledge that is most important because knowing exactly how a healthy body move allows us to evaluate a lack of movement and diagnose a way to return it to normal or determine if modifications are needed. Physical therapists also have the luxury of seeing their patients frequently and being able to spend greater amounts of time with the patient than other health care practitioners. All of my new patients receive a 1 – hour evaluation in which I actually “listen” to you explain your condition/injury and what your goals are in getting better. Then, in the evaluation, each individual receives hands-on measuring of their range of motion/flexibility, strength, and coordination. From these individual measurements, the therapist then determines the treatment needed to correct the deficits which ultimately, when corrected restore normal movement and function. The biggest tip I give to my patients is that the quicker you see your therapist after an injury/movement disorder the better chance we have in correcting the problem before the body develops compensations, bad habits, or it becomes so severe that you sustain structural damage that has to be repaired by a surgeon. An example is the onset of shoulder pain which is usually bursitis/tendonitis when the soft tissue structures of the shoulder are swollen because they are getting pinched by other structures. If dealt with initially, it can be treated by addressing the swelling with NSAIDS, ice, etc, and then figuring out the mechanical cause – rotator cuff weakness, capsular tightness, and scapular rhythm dysfunction. But if allowed to continue on by ignoring the problem you can develop a frozen shoulder or rotator cuff tear and then can only be fixed by surgery.
So the take-home message is that there is no magic pill but there may be a form of “The Fountain of Youth” —if you take the time to take care of yourself with regular exercise, stretching, proper diet, and occasional trips to your physical therapist to keep ALL parts of your body moving correctly – you can FIX yourself.