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How Physical Therapy Can Both Heal and Prevent Injury

Sep 25, 2014
The goal of physical therapy is to get an individual back to the point where she can perform normal, everyday activities without difficulty or risk. Physical therapy can restore functional abilities to those with physical impairments or disabilities and is concerned with promotion of healthy movement, prevention of injury, and rehabilitation of an existing injury. A physical therapist (PT) examines each individual and gets advice from their physician to develop a plan using applicable treatment techniques. Techniques may include therapeutic exercise, manual therapy such as soft tissue mobilization, deep massage or myofascial release. PTs also work with people to develop fitness programs to develop, maintain and restore maximum movement, flexibility and functional ability.

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At some point in her life, everyone can benefit from the restorative services of a physical therapist. If you drive a car, sit long hours on the computer, or lift weights, you have probably developed some muscle imbalances or mobility limitations that may leave you prone to serious injury.

To correct muscle imbalances and mobility limitations, there are corrective issues that I like to call Prehab exercises. These exercises are preventative in nature and help prevent and help correct issues you may have so that you can avoid an injury and lengthy rehabilitation. Prehab exercises strengthen your muscles and improve flexibility, adding necessary stability to enable you to have optimum performance while avoiding injury.

Everyone should include prehab exercises in her training. A personalized prehab program, developed by a physical therapist or a personal trainer with advanced certification, can consider specific needs associated with certain sports. For instance, a swimmer can help prevent a shoulder injury by doing prehab exercises for the entire shoulder area. A sample program would include scapular stabilization, exercises for all muscles in the shoulder region, upper back and the rotator cuff. The goal is to strengthen all the muscles that are used in the swimming movement.

Here are some sample prehab exercises that you can incorporate into your routine to reduce your risk of injury. Now, these exercises shouldn't take the place of physical therapy if your doctor has recommended it to you, but you can give them a try to shore up some weak areas.

Mini Band Monster Walks

IT Band pain is common in runners and cyclists. As the gluteus medius (an important hip abductor) loses its ability to control pelvic stability, the body recruits the IT band to help. As the IT band works harder and hard, it gets tighter and causes pain. This exercise strengthens the glute medius. Keep this strong, and IT band problems will start to disappear.

Stand with a mini band around your ankles and feet, about shoulder-width apart. Keep your legs straight and walk sideways. Keep your chest up, knees above toes at all times with tension on the band, and don't let the feet come together.

Rear Delt Y's and T's

The rear deltoids (shoulders) are often neglected by amateur lifters, but strengthening your rear deltoids is particularly important because the front deltoids tend to be worked much more frequently, such as during a chest press exercise. Exercise them equally to maintain good posture and balance in your shoulder area. Well-developed rear delts can also reduce your risk of rotator cuff injuries.

Y's: Begin lying face down flat on a bench. Lift your arms up in a "Y" with elbows straight and thumbs pointing up. Lower and raise them for 12 reps. T's: Lift your arms to the side in a "T."

Plank

This exercise is one of the best for improving core strength and stability. Get into a pushup position, and lower your forearms to the floor. Look down at the floor, pull in your belly button, and brace your abs. Keep your body in a straight line from ears to toes with no sagging. Hold this position for as long as you can. Time yourself, and watch your endurance and strength improve.

Maria Faires, RD is a Registered Dietitian, Personal Trainer, Advanced Health and Fitness Specialist and freelance writer based out of Sammamish, WA. Maria is considered to be one of Western Washington's premier fitness and nutrition experts. As the owner of Active Nutrition Fitness & Consulting, Maria provides highly personalized nutrition services, personal training and preventative and post-rehabilitative fitness programming in her private training studio. She also provides Skype, phone and online nutrition counseling and training for remote clients. Maria leads the industry in the development of cutting edge fitness and nutrition techniques as well as innovative and unique fitness programming. Maria expertly designs every workout, nutrition plan and provides the personal attention, extra motivation, support and accountability that helps her clients achieve optimal performance and health. Contact or read more about Maria at www.myactivenutrition.com.



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