We all know that visiting your physician for an annual physical is critical in maintaining long-term health, just as dental exams twice each year helps ensure oral health throughout a lifetime. But what about annual checkups with a physical therapist?
Annual physical therapy checkups provide the third critical (and often overlooked) piece in long-term health and preventative care.
The primary focus of a physical therapist is the musculoskeletal system – the bones, joints, muscles and connective tissues that make it possible for you to not just move, but experience life independently and on your terms. As a physical therapist, our job is to ensure this system is in optimal shape so few limitations stand in the way of a person’s quality of life.
This includes identifying weaknesses, limitations, defects and other factors affecting one’s musculoskeletal system – issues that could lead to discomfort, pain or injury. Based on the results of a physical therapy “check-up” examination, a physical therapist is able to provide clients with individualized treatments and/or programs meant to help prevent future, movement-limiting issues.
This indeed helps keep people moving and helps ensure a high quality of life for those who wish to stay active. However, staying ahead of possible musculoskeletal issues is related to much broader issues related to overall health. Movement is medicine, and being able to stay physically active – staying away from pain, injury and other barriers that can keep people from moving – plays a huge role in disease prevention, the management of chronic conditions and, overall, taking greater control of your health.
During a preventative check-up, a physical therapist will evaluate such things as:
- Movement/injury history
- Aerobic capacity
- Functional strength
- Quality of movement (for any activities you do regularly)
In addition, a physical therapist will work with each person to address any personal limitations, weaknesses, pain or other impairments that may be holding them back from reaching their lifestyle and movement goals.
We recommend that, just as with their personal physicians, people should see a physical therapist for a check-up once each year.
Other times to consider a physical therapy checkup are:
- Whenever you experience pain, discomfort or strain when doing an activity you enjoy
- Whenever you are considering a new fitness or training program, or starting a new sport
- After you’ve completed post-surgery rehab, and you are trying to resume normal or a new activity
- After any surgery or condition that has led to bed rest.
Although physical therapists can help you recover from an injury, to get the best benefit, consider a checkup before one occurs.
Dr. Jones is a physical therapist, speaker, author and co-owner of Kinetic Physical Therapy & Wellness and Kinetic Pediatric Therapy who specializes and holds several credentials in orthopedics and manual therapy. He is a member of the American Physical Therapy Association, National Strength and Conditioning Association, and the American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Therapists.