Staying Fit Before & After Fitness
by Michael Dow, MSPT ◊ Jun 15, 2012
We’ve all been through it: strenuous exercises, fitness programs, running, weightlifting, and the accompanying unexplainable pain during and after most physical exertion.
If you’re a runner, it’s classically your knees. Physical therapy before a race or your daily run can help “cushion” the impact of running with a set of exercises specified for the knees, ankles, feet, and hamstrings. Often, “warm-ups” and “cool-downs” aren’t enough. A therapist-directed set of joint-specific exercises (easily done daily at home) can prepare the runner for the unforgiving rigors of the hard pavement or track.
The modern athletic culture has us pushing our bodies to competitive extremes. We want to excel. We want to remain, and appear, young and fit. Often we don’t realize the related damage to muscles and joints.
While the physical therapy facility can’t replace the social/physical setting of the local fitness center that concentrates on cardiovascular development, therapy prepares the body for exercise. Therapists isolate the problem areas in the joint-muscle relationship to prevent possible injury during strenuous workouts. Joint-muscle manipulation and massage, penetrating ultrasound treatments, physical stretching, rolling, light weight training, among other therapeutic practices, allow the body to then react more favorably to the upcoming fitness session.
Post-fitness is equally important to repair the stress placed on muscles, joints, and ligaments. In the case of runners, while loss of cartilage usually leads to arthritic pain, proper therapy can reduce joint inflammation and allow for continuation of athletics without need for surgery or cortisone injections. Similarly with runners, the calf, quads and hamstring muscles respond to the rigors of the road race warrior with pre-and-post race treatments.
The chronic fallen arch doesn’t have to “fall” in the flat-footed runner. Proper foot, toe, and ankle therapy can add years to the activity of running without pain or the need for artificial arch support. In all areas of physical therapy, most practitioners today work closely with orthopedic surgeons so that the proper diagnosis of pain and injury are treated pragmatically.
Senior fitness participants are particularly prone to injury, even when modest fitness programs are tailored to the body’s aging process. Often, medical office referrals direct patients to physical therapists before the pain becomes chronic. In cases where osteoporosis is evident, therapy is a realistic path to reducing pain. Spinal and lower back treatments can also keep seniors “fit” and candidates for continuing, supervised fitness programs.
In the area of organized sports, whether amateur or professional, athletes push their competitive instincts to the extreme. While the pros have the benefit of personal trainers, fitness rooms, massage, and whirlpool therapy, most amateur athletes are on their own.
Physical therapists can quickly step in and diagnose a problem before it progresses. Again, physical therapy can be looked at as a corrective, as well as a preventative, cog in the wheel of the medical arts. Therapy before and after physical events can pay off in long-term health and improvement in athletic activity.
Michael Dow of Amity Physical Therapy (formerly located in Hamden) can be reached by phone at 203.389.4593 or drop by their location at 1 Bradley Road, Suite 801, Woodbridge. You can also visit www.amitypt.com.
Photo: Amity Physical Therapy providing relief during a road race.