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 secure oral health throughout a lifetime. But what about annual checkups with a physical therapist?
According to physical therapist Dr. Anna Friedman of RET Physical Therapy Group, which operates multiple clinics in the Greater Seattle area, 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,” said Dr. Friedman. “As a physical therapist, my 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 keeps people moving and maintains 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,” said Dr. Friedman. “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.”
According to the American Association of Physical Therapy (APTA), physical therapists are highly-educated, licensed health care professionals who help patients reduce pain and improve or restore mobility. During a preventative check-up, Dr. Friedman says, a physical therapist will evaluate such things as movement/injury history, balance, aerobic capacity, functional strength, flexibility and quality of movement (i.e., gait, reach, bending, etc.).
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,” Dr. Friedman said. She added that physical therapy checkups should also be considered:
• Whenever one experiences pain, discomfort or strain when doing an activity they enjoy;
• Whenever one is considering a new fitness or training program, or starting a new sport;
• Following the completion of post-surgery rehab, when trying to resume normal activities; or
• After any surgery or condition that has led to bed rest.
For more information about annual physical therapy checkups, contact the physical therapy team at RET Physical Therapy Group with questions or to schedule an evaluation.