Physical Training and Physical Therapy, what are their roles?
What is the point of taking care of the body and attempting to improve capacity, function, performance? These issues are better addressed by physical training with the guidance of a teacher or trainer.
Training solo is a must, this is how we learn to listen to our body, learn the strength and satisfaction that comes from creating a physical challenge and meeting the challenge.
However having guidance from a trainer or coach can add new perspectives and freshness. An outside perspective can teach in contrast to what you are comfortable with and can identify aspects in form and alignment that you are not able to see on your own.
What can physical therapy help with?
Physical Therapy is best utilized when an injury is limiting our basic daily function such as difficulty dressing, washing, transitioning between activities, getting to work, simply participating in what we enjoy, the point is all about restoring to our prior level so that we do not make extra time and energy on basic activities. A physical therapist is a clinician with training in evaluation and treating musculoskeletal dysfunction, constantly evaluating if the patient is improving under their care to determine if that person needs further medical or surgical intervention for their issue while also having knowledge in how underlying systemic conditions can manifest as pain or what may seem at first like an issue that PT can help, we seek to always ensure the patient does not have something more serious going on that they must see a medical specialist or emergency care to treat.
With this out of the way, when a patient is appropriate for PT we focus on improving function. Our primary ways of doing this are through exercises, education, and sometimes manual therapy to reduce pain or show proper movement patterns. These interventions are focused exclusively on the narrow scope of supporting the healing of the body to restore normal range of motion and strength. Modern PT does not simply look at the body as individual body parts knit together, our interventions while focused on the main issue at hand seek to integrate this area of injury back into the whole body and improve function overall.
When patients come to us for a specific problem we focus on what is most important to return to work, family, community function while also seeking to look for quality in the whole picture of the body. For instance if a person has inability to dress without pain and increased time due to difficulty, we are going to focus on exercises that work on improving the strength and range of motion of that one area of the body and the structures that contribute to helping that action regain its fluidity. Often in helping one aspect of the body we address the whole picture underlying posture or movement faults that contribute to that injury or impede further progress in healing. When the area under pain improves as supported by physical therapy and the natural healing of the body, along with how the whole mechanics of the body have been addressed, if the person has increased capacity and movement quality overall we have achieved our primary goal of restoring function of the injured aspect as well as improved the overall health and function. We track the changes of a person in physical therapy with tests and measures of strength and range of motion, as well as subjective measures of how the person feels their function is progressing or not. This process ensures we are helping with their primary concern and encourage them to experience the body as resilient. We encourage PT patient to continue to challenge their physical limitations to always be improving and learning about the body to maintain the ability to do what we want to do. Injuries happen but it is the quality with how we address them that can turn a pain into an opportunity to grow physically and mentally.
When someone is active normally to their own standard of normal, without pain or limitation in strength of range of motion, the training paradigm shifts more wide open to challenging the body as a whole while elevating the person’s current level of performance and wellness.
The way I design a session for my clients is always individual. Each person has unique strengths and weaknesses and goals. We must together find the right mix of challenge in different aspects from strength, mobility, balance, stability, and endurance. I think it is essential that I have first practiced the routine myself to feel how the exercises flow together into a session. For instance I may rotate between pushing and pulling activities or upper and lower body activities to keep the session active so that we do not feel that we need more than a few breaths of rest between sets. This way we are also challenging multiple energy systems and packing in more volume in the session without overtraining.
Here at Bridgetown, the physical therapists help people heal from injury and then help people continue their journey in learning about their body through one-on-one and group training sessions, yoga, and pilates. These different tools help people grow in a balanced way toward their wellness goals. I love seeing my former patients who I met when they were in a lot of pain now completing exercise sessions feeling great. Creating a plan for each session of PT or training and fitting each session into a progression toward the person’s goals is like an artform and our patients and clients are active participants in this creative process.