Athletes have it rough. Their bodies are put through the wringer with all the physical strain and trauma they endure while performing their sport.
Physical therapy is likely not the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of a sports-related injury. However, physical therapy is the first line of defense in recovering from sports injuries.
There are several benefits to this non-invasive therapy for anybody looking to manage pain, improve performance, and overall general wellbeing.
What is Physical Therapy
Before we get into the benefits of physical therapy for sports injuries, let’s discuss what precisely physical therapy is.
Physical therapy, also known as physiotherapy, is a form of allied health care (health care not provided by doctors or nurses). This therapy is designed to diagnose and alleviate physical pain, help improve motion and mobility, and help recover from physical injuries.
This therapy is done through physical pressure on specific areas of concern in the body. It involves physical manipulation of the muscle tissues or joints. It involves applying pressure and a dry needle on the skin to apply pinpoint stimulation on specific spots in some cases.
This therapy is provided by registered physical therapists who are managed by a regulatory body. In the US, one will have to earn a Doctor in Physiotherapy degree to practice physiotherapy.
Along with physical manipulation, physical therapists will also recommend lifestyle modifications involving mobility and physical activity to help heal from injuries and to improve overall physical ability.
Here are five ways physical therapy can be beneficial for recovering from sports-related injuries.
#1 Provides A Good Alternative to Surgeries
Some major physical trauma-related sports injuries will inevitably require surgery to fix the damage. However, physical therapy is recommended as the first initial step to recovery for most injuries. It is also an excellent alternative to surgery.
Physical therapists at Evans Physical Therapy & Sport Performance Monroe recommend a thorough evaluation to see if physical therapy is a viable alternative to surgery after an injury occurs.
From dry needling to stretching and muscle tissue and joint manipulation can be good physical therapy techniques to treat a sports injury.
Even if an injury requires surgery, the post-operative recovery will mainly require physical rehabilitation therapy. Including physical therapy as part of the recovery will also drastically reduce your medical bills should you need surgery.
Consult a physical therapist after a doctor or trauma physician referral to see how physical therapy can help you after an injury.
#2 Alleviates Pain without Addictive Pain Medication
As we all have seen on the news, the opioid crisis is ravaging all corners of America. A significant source of this crisis is the misuse and overuse of pain medication. Sports injuries can be excruciating, and sometimes there are no alternatives other than to be on pain medication for an extended period.
Some sports can be pretty rough on the athlete’s body. In cases of injury in sports like football, soccer, and rugby, there is an immediate need for pain relief on the spot. However, physical therapy can alleviate pain without heavily relying on addictive pain killers.
This is where hot packs, cold packs, pelvic floor therapy, and dry needling techniques can help alleviate pain. A regular physical therapy routine will also help manage long-term pain, so the patient doesn’t have to get too dependent on pain killers.
Any natural remedies to pain are always far better than pharmaceuticals. This is where physical therapy can be highly beneficial in alleviating pain from a sports injury.
Effective physical therapy after a sports injury will help the athlete get back into the game faster, recover better, and manage their pain better.
A physical therapist will work in conjunction with your physician to create a pain management plan that will require the least possible pharmaceutical intervention.
#3 Helps Regain Range of Motion and Mobility
Physical therapists can design a customized plan for their clients to help with the range of motion and mobility. This is especially important during the recovery phase of a sports or workout-related injury.
The faster you regain your range of motion and mobility, the sooner you can get back into your workout routine and sports practices.
Stretching is an excellent way to help regain joint and muscle movement flexibility. Stretching can maximize the way your muscles can move and stretch, in turn increasing your flexibility. Stretching also helps strengthen the ligaments in the joints to help you with the range of motion.
Regardless of age or physical capability, routine stretching exercises designed by a physical therapist will improve your flexibility and range of motion over time.
It is also an effective way to regain those motions after a sports injury. As the joint or muscle you injure will be tentative at first, it will be essential to see a physical therapist who will design a customized plan to help regain the strength, motion, and flexibility in the area of your body you injured.
This is yet another benefit of engaging in physical therapy for sports recovery.
#4 Improves Balance and Performance
Even if you haven’t had a sustained sports injury, it is still very beneficial to see a physical therapist regularly to help your body improve balance, posture, and performance.
The several physical therapy techniques all improve the overall physical form of the body. The therapist will show you how to perform certain sports or workout-related activities to keep your body’s wear and tear minimal.
One of the major tasks of a physical therapist when they first take in a client is to assess their risk of falling. Many injuries at home or on the sports field occur due to improper balance and posture issues.
A physical therapist can assess your risk and recommend an action plan with exercises and stretching that will, over time, improve your balance and how you carry yourself.
This will then improve your performance in any physical activity you may engage in in the future.
Balance improvement exercises are also critical during the rehabilitation phase after injury. This is because the body’s natural tendency will be to avoid putting pressure on the injured part of the body. This alters how we walk, run, sit, or even lie down. This adaptation to the injury needs to be corrected so the injured part can be given time to heal, and then it can be rehabilitated to perform its normal functions.
A physical therapist will devise a rehabilitation plan including daily mobility exercises and stretches to help regain balance and posture. This plan will also fix other balance-related issues like vertigo, dizziness, and the propensity to fall.
These reasons are why physical therapy is so beneficial for regaining balance and posture after sports recovery.
#5 Improves Cardiopulmonary Health after Recovery
If you sustain a musculoskeletal injury, you will generally be advised to take it easy with cardiovascular exercises for a while. This can reduce the built-up cardiopulmonary strength, essential for athletes or fitness enthusiasts.
Cardio training gives athletes the endurance and stamina to withstand prolonged physical exertion. This involves moving the entire body, including muscles and joints. The common forms of cardio training include running, jogging, power walking, walking, skipping rope, and cycling.
Therefore, as a part of the injury recovery rehabilitation plan, physical therapists will include a cardiovascular exercise plan to gradually improve your heart and lung health (i.e., cardiopulmonary health).
The breathing and physical exercise plan created by the physical therapist will improve your breathing, endurance, strength, and ability to withstand prolonged physical exertion again.
The therapist will set the tone and pace for these exercises and gradually increase the intensity and duration of these exercises to build your cardiac fitness back up to where it was.
Depending on the severity of the injury, this rehabilitation plan to improve your cardiovascular health can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.
A physical therapist will guide you through the entire process in conjunction with your doctor and specialists.
This is how physical therapy can benefit your cardiopulmonary health after sports recovery and prolonged absence from cardio training exercises.
Allied health services have a critical role to play in maintaining good health and managing any illnesses or injuries. Physical therapy is super beneficial, especially in cases of musculoskeletal health and injuries.
From muscle and joint manipulation, massages, dry needles, and cardiovascular exercises, a physical therapist will be there for you every step of the way of rehabilitation after injury.
Aside from injury recovery, regular physical therapy will be important for recovery from the minor wear and tear on the body from sports and exercise.
As always, consult your doctor before you engage any allied health services. All the best!