Though we love working with our patients and seeing them get better, we find that we often don’t meet our patients until after they’ve had an incident, injury, or they’ve been nursing their chronic pain for quite some time. What if there was a way to see issues coming and address them before they “need” the rehabilitation process?
Preventative physical therapy (or “preventive” physical therapy) is the answer to this question!
Preventative physical therapy is a proactive healthcare approach that involves identifying and addressing potential physical imbalances and weaknesses before they escalate into significant issues.
In this article, we’ll discuss what preventative physical therapy is, how you may benefit from it, and help provide some guidance about whether preventative physical therapy is right for you.
What is preventative physical therapy?
Preventative physical therapy is a therapeutic approach in the physical therapy world wherein patients receive physical therapy services before they escalate into full-blown injuries. In our experience, this is one of the primary benefits of physical therapy as a treatment option in general.
Patients receive individualized assessments, with the goal being to provide early interventions for things that may become issues down the road. The process itself includes customized exercise programs and education on their individual needs just like a typical physical therapy patient would.
The goal of preventative physical therapy is to empower individuals in maintaining their physical well-being and prevent future injuries.
Benefits of preventative physical therapy
One of the primary goals of preventive physical therapy is early intervention. By addressing minor issues before they become major problems, individuals can avoid the need for more extensive rehabilitation down the road. This proactive approach helps in preserving overall mobility and functionality.
Posture and body mechanics
Preventive physical therapy places a strong emphasis on correcting posture and optimizing body mechanics. Poor posture and improper body mechanics can contribute to various musculoskeletal issues. Through targeted interventions, individuals learn how to maintain proper alignment, reducing the strain on their bodies.
Decreasing risk of injuries
Throughout your preventative therapy, you’ll be introduced to proven methods to improve and maintain your joints’ passive range of motion, improve strength of connective tissue and musculature, and improving your mobility.
Education and awareness
As mentioned above, a crucial component of preventive physical therapy is education. Therapists empower individuals with knowledge about their bodies, helping them make informed choices that positively impact their physical well-being. This increased awareness plays a pivotal role in injury prevention.
Who could benefit from preventative physical therapy
Preventative physical therapy can benefit a wide range of individuals across different age groups and health conditions. Of note, the people who could likely benefit the most would be:
Athletes and active individuals benefit because they can manage any imbalances resulting from repetitive motions in their sport.
Individuals with sedentary lifestyles benefit greatly from preventative physical therapy, because they can address some of the negative effects of prolonged sitting and counteract the postural issues and muscle stiffness they encounter.
Seniors benefit greatly because we can help them maintain their mobility, prevent falls, and promote a higher quality of life as they age.
Individuals with previous injuries are always at a somewhat higher risk of reinjury, and can benefit greatly.
Individuals with specific health conditions such as arthritis, osteoprorosis, or chronic pain.
Post-surgery patients can incorporate preventative physical therapy as a mechanism for minimizing risks in the future.
Workers in physical jobs find preventative physical therapy useful to prevent work-related injuries and maintain overall physical well-being.
How often are the appointments?
A patient in preventative physical therapy may be coming in to our office with a specific issue in mind, or they may be seeking total-body wellness over the long haul. Traditional physical therapy for injuries typically involves 2-3 appointments per week for 4-6 weeks at a time. By contrast, patients may seek preventative physical therapy for as long as they feel they are benefitting from the program, and they often only come in 1-2 per week.
Cost of preventative physical therapy
In discussing preventative physical therapy with potential patients, the topic of physical therapy’s cost always comes up. Some patients decide to private pay for their appointments, and for others we bill their insurance. Most physical therapy practices (ourselves included) will verify your benefits for you and provide you with the specifics of what your insurance is willing to pay for.
Preventative physical therapy vs a normal exercise routine
One of the questions that always comes up (especially in those who are already engaged in athletics or a regular exercise routine) is whether or not preventative physical therapy is more useful than simply participating in a typical self-led exercise routine.
We’ll preface this discussion with saying that we are massive proponents of physical activity and maintaining a regular exercise schedule. There’s almost no single self-directed intervention that can have as big an impact on quality of life.
That being said, traditional exercise schedules and routines differ from preventative physical therapy routines in their purpose and goals. While traditional exercise typically has general components to improve strength, flexibility, etc, it doesn’t include a tailored treatment plan from a professional.
Normal exercise routines may not address specific musculoskeletal imbalances or potential injury risks, preventative physical therapy is uniquely designed to identify and address these specific issues and prevent injury.
Unlike a standard exercise routine, it emphasizes targeted exercises aimed at strengthening particular areas, correcting posture, and improving overall body mechanics.
Should I seek preventative physical therapy?
While no one can answer that question definitively for you, we would encourage you to seek the opinion of a physician or physical therapist near you to discuss how you may potentially benefit from this therapeutic intervention.
If you fall into any of the categories listed above, you may stand to benefit greatly. Additionally, if you have nagging aches, pains, or stiffness that you’ve been unable to resolve on your own, it may be in your best interest to seek the opinion of a physical therapist before you’ve got a full-blown injury to deal with.