Why do you need an annual physical therapy exam?
It is recommended that we see the dentist twice each year for a preventative check up on our oral care. It is also recommended that we get an annual physical exam from our primary care physician to assess our general systemic health. What we are currently lacking in today’s medical model is perhaps the most important preventative service of all: an annual physical therapy appointment to address our movement system—the body. The muscles and joints that we use daily are not getting a routine tune-up.
Your primary doctor does not have time to watch you perform functional activities, assess your biomechanics, and determine if you are at risk for causing degenerative changes to your muscles, joints, ligaments, and tendons. It is still very important to get an annual physical exam. However, that type of exam is a more systemic overview of your health as opposed to an in-depth evaluation of how your neuromuscular and musculoskeletal systems are performing. Our physical therapists would address this.
How physical therapy can help
We see too many patients with chronic musculoskeletal conditions that could have easily been prevented if they had been addressed earlier in life. Over time, muscles tighten, joints stiffen up, and the body begins to compensate. Your body will naturally take the path of least resistance. If you have a joint that is not moving correctly, your body will compensate by increasing joint motion at another joint, which can easily cause many problems down the road such as degenerative joint disease, osteoarthritis, tendinopathies, etc.
There is a misconception that one needs a referral from a physician for physical therapy. Most states, including Oregon, have granted physical therapists “direct access,” meaning that you can go directly to physical therapy for an evaluation without a referral. It is recommended that you check with your insurance company to see if a referral is needed, as there are some insurances that require a referral.
We believe that if people were annually screened by a physical therapist for movement dysfunctions, we could significantly reduce the prevalence of degenerative musculoskeletal conditions. Even if you don’t have pain, you should be seeing a physical therapist as a preventative service. Pre-habilitation is just as important as rehabilitation.
A dysfunction is defined as “a state of altered mechanics, either an increase or decrease from the expected normal, or the presence of aberrant motion” (Paris). Our physical therapists can identify and correct movement dysfunctions. You need to know if you are putting yourself at risk for injury and we can help you.
Physical therapy for injury prevention
Over the past several years, there has been a major push toward preventative healthcare. There is a reason that professional sports teams do movement screens on their prospective players. Professional and college teams do not want to invest in players that are classified as “at risk for injury.” We should be performing injury risk assessments for all of our youth sports athletes. As a parent, consider bringing your child in to see a physical therapist for a pre-season injury prevention screen.
The body is meant to move. Your muscles and joints provide mobility. There’s a reason that healthcare practitioners all agree that exercise is a good thing. However, if the body is in a state of dysfunction and impaired motor patterns, exercising may be adding insult to injury by causing pain and increased tissue stress on certain joints. Getting an annual “tune-up” can not only decrease your pain, but also correct these issues before they lead to degenerative changes.
Take care of your body’s movement system. Make a physical therapy appointment to assess your functional biomechanics and correct any underlying dysfunctions. This will help improve your overall health and mobility as well as decrease your chance of developing degenerative conditions down the road.
The impact of this visit on your overall health cannot be underestimated.
During an annual visit, your physical therapist will gather your health history and perform a series of tests and measures, including a screening of the musculoskeletal, neuromuscular, and cardiovascular systems. Research shows that by performing several types of movement screens, including Gray Cook’s Functional Movement Screen, we can more fully assess your functional movement patterns and interpret your strengths and weaknesses.
The information collected can be compared with last year’s results to reveal any inconsistencies that could signal problems. Similarly, during an annual physical therapy appointment, your physical therapist will capture an overall picture of your musculoskeletal health that can be compared from year to year.
Take charge of your overall health and well-being. Call us today and schedule your yearly physical therapy exam.