Updated: Aug 14, 2020
Let me paint you a picture: You wake up one morning with a little pain in your foot when you step out of bed. You assume it’s nothing and think will eventually go away so you suck it up for a few days. Flash forward and a full month has gone by with no improvement- in fact, it's starting to limit you even more in your day to day life. Actually, you notice that now your knee hurts too. So, reluctantly you decide to see the doctor, who spends a few minutes with you and runs a few tests. They decide it’s muscular and give you a prescription to see a Physical Therapist. You finally decide to make an appointment with the PT, but a full 2 months have gone by now. You see them for the first visit and you feel better by the time you walk out of the clinic. AWESOME! …Except for the fact that it took you 2 months to get here and just a few minutes to feel better. Well, what if we could have just eliminated all that wasted time?? Keep reading and I’ll explain…
We all know by now that annual physicals are super important for preventative health so most of us take the step to see our primary care doctors each year. Regular visits give us the opportunity to talk and ask questions to the doctor one-on-one and have various routine tests performed that can help catch any potential health problems that have arisen over the past year. So while it makes perfect sense to see our primary care doctors on a yearly basis, why have we not made the move towards seeing our Physical Therapists yearly as well?
Physical Therapists are movement specialists, and have been trained to look for muscular imbalances that can result in pain and injury. We prescribe exercise and movement as a means for our patients to stay active and live pain free lives. Movement (or sometimes lack of) is often the cause behind many health conditions you may experience throughout your lifetime. Each of us develop our very own movement patterns, or habits, based on our daily activities and muscle use. These movements can either be functional and healthy, or dysfunctional and result in limitations. It all depends on if muscle imbalances ultimately develop from these patterns. So, what if we could catch and correct poor movement habits before they lead to problems, potentially eliminating the need for medications, multiple trips to the doctor or even surgery? Luckily for you, that is exactly what an annual movement screen from your Physical Therapist is meant to do.
As a Physical Therapist myself, I see patients all the time who have been suffering from pain for a prolonged period of time. Often times, people casually leave out important details on their “little” aches and pains (or big ones) that they have been suffering with because they think they are not related, important or will go away on their own. These “little” things that we ignore, often end up being the catalysts for injuries and movement limitations down the line.
Many of you have likely already been to Physical Therapy before, and if not, you can probably say you have at least had some type of pain or injury in your lifetime. But when do you usually choose to see the Physical Therapist? Most likely it is after you have already been injured, have been prescribed PT by the doctor or maybe have even tried other treatments that have failed. Now imagine this instead- if you saw the therapist before the pain or injury occurred (or right at the start of it), they may have been able to pick up on imbalances and prescribe you an exercise program that could have prevented you from needing to go through an entire course of rehab. OR they can send you to the right doctor for additional testing/imaging because they find something that isn’t quite right. Ultimately, implementing a yearly wellness “check-ups” or movement screen from your PT can end up saving you a lot of time, money and pain in the long run!
So, what does a yearly movement screen look like?
I’m going to give you a picture of what a typical wellness check-up at On Pointe Wellness would like. Keep in mind, each PT is slightly different but for the most part their screens will look like some version of this. *An important note to make- I am lucky enough to be licensed in a Direct Access State, meaning I am able to treat patients without a doctor’s prescription for up to 30 days. This makes performing yearly movement screens, or wellness check-ups, with patients possible. Each state differs, so your best bet is to talk it over with your local PT!
The most important piece of your visit is that it provides a great time to talk to your PT about aches and pains you may be having, problems with your workouts, at your job, etc. This gives us a good starting point to look for potential problem areas. If you haven't had any recent issues- that’s ok too! This visit is also a great time to set some health and wellness related goals for yourself over the next year.
From there, we take a look at your range of motion, flexibility, strength and most importantly how you move. This can mean a variety of functional movements, and I always try to incorporate things you are doing on a regular basis at your job, sport, etc. Again, even if you are not having current problems with these movements, Physical Therapists are trained to identify muscle compensations and imbalances that could be potentially be problematic down the line.
Your assessment is completed, now what?
The fun part-- Prescribe exercise, movement corrections and EDUCATE! Once areas of concern have been identified, your Physical Therapist can give you exercises to help correct imbalances and re-train your functional movements. If there are no specific areas of concern, we can still give you great exercise suggestions to help optimize performance in your sport, activity or daily life. We will also include lots of education on things like self-care, postural corrections or designing new workout programs for the gym… it really all depends on what your goals are! Basically the end result for you is a great preventative program to keep you on the right wellness track for the next few months.
So, let’s review the benefits of annual movement screens:
They can correct potential dysfunctional movements, muscle imbalances or postures before they turn into full blown injuries
Save you money: you may not need a trip to the doctor or regular course of PT when you address things early on
Potentially reduce need for medications, surgeries or other expensive medical treatments down the line
Prevent time lost to your favorite activities, sports or work because of pain and injury
Have the opportunity to spend quality one-on-one time with your therapist to ask questions and get answers
Helps you set yearly health and wellness goals
Are you convinced yet?? I think I speak for most Physical Therapists when I say that we really want, and can be, an essential part of your preventative healthcare team. We want to help keep you active for the long haul so you can live your best life!!