Much of medicine is striving for a proactive approach to treatment vs. a reactive. More and more people are getting active and taking charge of their health care. In the past, physical therapy has been predominately reactive. You get injured or have surgery, then go see a physical therapist. Sure, it helps you get you back to where you want to be, but what if there is a way to prevent the injury or surgery in the first place?
Last year I sold my old Subaru. It had been with me on many adventures across the country. It was a symbol of my free spirit days of the past. My father taught my brother and sister and I to take care of those things that you value. As a classic car restorer and collector, he instilled a nature of car cleanliness as part as our regular chores. Every month that old Subaru was washed on the exterior, vacuumed on the interior, and the vinyl was bathed in Armor All. Every prospective buyer commented on the remarkable like-new condition of the Subaru with 170,000 miles. My monthly routine (that perhaps borders on obsessive) paid off in a car that looked and functioned as if it were 10 years younger. And I got well above the market estimated price for it!
What if we took care of our body like we did our cars? Sure, monthly detailing of an old Subaru may be a bit much, but most of us at least get oil changes every few months. We fork over a chunk of our hard-earned money for routine maintenance that makes the car run……exactly the same! However, regular car check-ups, fluid changes, and maintenance are essential if you expect the car to perform reliably for you for more than a few years. Those maintenance hours pay off at the end not only at the re-sale but in the many miles and hours spent in the reliable vehicle.
Apples to oranges, cars to humans. Can we use this analogy for our bodies? Do our bodies need routine check-ups and maintenance to ensure they perform reliably for many years? I would argue yes!
Dentistry has done a great job of being a proactive treatment profession. You don’t just go to the dentist when your teeth hurt. Most people go for regular checkups to insure nothing nasty is brewing in the mouth. Likewise, you don’t brush your teeth only when something feels wrong in your mouth. Most of us have a habit of brushing and flossing at least once a day. Many get annual physicals with our doctors to insure our insides are operating properly. I believe there is a future for physical therapy to be at the front of proactive treatment.
I have discussed much about how we push out bodies in various sports (swim, bike, run) and at work, all of which may contribute to sub-optimal biomechanics. We may also be gifted with sub-optimal biomechanics that we try to force into a sport or work environment. Like the car with poor alignment that eventually leads to irregular wear on the rubber, less than ideal biomechanics may eventually lead to injury, pain, and decreased performance. What if we can have the equivalent “alignment check” (I really don’t like the term alignment for our bodies…but we’ll go with it for this analogy) for our bodies?
Becca Rauch, a physical therapist here at Rebound, has been implementing a SportsmetricsTM program for ACL injury prevention. 1 in 100 high school female athletes and 1 and 10 college female athletes will suffer a major knee injury per year. The SportsmetricsTM program is the first program proven to decrease knee injuries in female athletes. The athletes partaking in the SportsmetricsTM program get specialized progression of jump and strength drills to learn proper techniques for jumping and landing. During the program most will increase overall leg strength, improve symmetry in right-to-left leg power, and improve vertical jump. It’s a challenge convincing athletes to participate in a program like SportsmetricsTM as most don’t have pain driving their desire to complete it. The athletes need to realize the benefit of being proactive with their biomechanics in order to prevent a life-altering lower extremity injury.
Rebound has performed various “Ready Set Go” programs in which we screen athletes or a whole team for sub-optimal biomechanics. This includes muscle tests, Range-of-Motion measurements, asymmetry evaluation, and dynamic tests to assess the athlete’s risk for injury during the season. Many don’t have injuries at the screen, but after we collect the data we have a pretty good idea of who will be injured that season. The smart coach will get the athlete to work with their PT and/or trainer to address their biomechanical issues so that the athlete will have an injury-free season and be able to perform at their highest level.
I have discussed in other blogs (Contraposto, Matrix) about our body’s inherent asymmetrical patterns that we all have. The asymmetry is a beautiful thing and necessary for healthy functioning of a bipedal animal on a planet with gravity. However, if these patterns get “too-asymmetrical” pain, injuries, and decreased performance can result. Even if you don’t consider yourself an athlete, your body still has tendencies to move differently left and right. Regular check-ups can be beneficial to insure one does not become overly asymmetrical and run into issues down the road.
An ideal athlete and patient would have regular physical therapy “check-ups” as they train for their goal competition. Many athletes get regular massages to help loosen chronic tight tissue from training. Why not have regular biomechanical assessments as part as your routine to stay healthy and perform at your best? A physical therapist can help design a program unique to your mechanics so that you reach your goal without taking time off for an injury.
Many of us have the equivalent of that “old Subaru” in our life. Something we take care of regularly and value so that we can enjoy it for many years. My old Subaru took me on many adventures through life and allowed me to hit the open road to explore the country. Many of us utilize our dentists to provide regular maintenance for our pearly whites. SportsmetricsTM and Ready-Set-Go programs are beginning to provide biomechanic maintenance for our athletes. The future of a healthy and happy life will likely involve regular proactive programs keeping us on the road of vitality and avoiding veering off into pain.