As I wind down into my final couple of weeks of Physical Therapy I’ve started to reflect on how much time and energy I’ve spent rehabbing my body in the past 15(!) months. MY PT timeline:
Round 1: July – August 2012. Was diagnosed with “Runner’s Knee” after experiencing awful knee pain during an intense few months of training and racing.
Round 2: March – May 2013. Developed a stress fracture in my right foot after changing my running gait and shoes to “improve” my form.
Round 3: September – November 2013. Developed plantar fasciitis after slowly starting back running in new shoes and freaked out after feeling foot pain after a 5K.
So here are the Top Five Physical Therapy Tips I’ve learned after all of my experiences…
5 Physical Therapy Tips
Work with a QUALITY Physical Therapist! Your PT should be engaged, easy to talk to, and always treat you with respect. For the last 2 rounds I have had great care, but my first stint was awful. I felt neglected by my PT because I didn’t have a “real” injury and was in relatively good shape. And whenever I asked legitimate questions, I got B.S. non-answers in return. I made sure not to go back there when I was injured again.
Go to therapy as frequently as possible to increase success. I didn’t learn this until recently. My first 2 rounds of PT were only twice a week, which was really tough when I had the stress fracture since I was also juggling graduate school and full time work. But since I’ve been going to PT 3 days a week, I can really feel the improvement in my strength and balance and can easily note my progress at each visit. If you lack the motivation to do your exercises at home on your own, scheduling frequent therapy visits can keep you honest and ensure that you’re on track for recovery, especially if you only have a limited amount of visits with your health insurance coverage.
Dynamic stretching really works!Dynamic stretching is a great way to safely warm up before running. I started doing these towards the end of stress fracture therapy and once I started running again, they became part of my workout routine. Some of my favorites are walking lunges, straight leg kicks (aka Frankensteins aka toy soldiers), and butt kicks. While they do take extra time, I feel much better after a run than if I did not dynamically stretch. They’re worth a shot!
You’ll learn to start listening to your body. It sounds cliche, but once you’ve gone through physical therapy, you become more attuned to when something doesn’t “feel right”. Maybe there’s a little paranoia too, but at the onset of “bad pain”, I call my primary care doctor and set an appointment. I email my sports medicine doc when I’m freaking out about stuff. I ice my foot or change my shoes after a long day of work in steel toed boots. It’s one of the greatest benefits of going through physical therapy! But once it is over, it’s imperative to remain aware and take things slowly as you make your way back…and that’s the hardest thing I’ve had to learn:
Patience, patience, patience!! In early 2012 I was on the fast track to running my first marathon. I was all signed up for the Philly Marathon, but by the time it came in November, I could barely make it through the Half. Now I have to come to terms that I will probably not be ready to run my first marathon until 2015. I have knees that like to pop, I have no idea how to run since I keep messing with my form, and my pace isn’t where I want it to be. My friends in the Running Club (that I started) are spending their Saturdays bonding without me as they train for upcoming races. It makes me sad sometimes. But I am getting stronger, I’m cross training (look out for a post on biking!), and I know I’ll be back. Running gives me so much satisfaction and it’s become one of my passions. This is only temporary. If I want to be successful, I have to be patient, and I can’t have any regrets!
Hopefully I’ve given you some helpful tips to consider if you have the misfortune of going to Physical Therapy. If you’re in the same boat as me, I wish you a full, speedy recovery! Are there any more tips that I missed? Add a comment!