Monday, September 26, 2016

The Importance of PhysiotherapyExercise Rehab, and Performance Care

How long would a 4-cylinder car engine last if it was constantly driven using only two cylinders? It wouldn’t last long in such an inefficient situation. The demands placed on the engine will cause it to be overworked leading to an inevitable mechanical breakdown. A car engine is made up of many parts working together to produce movement of the vehicle and your human body works in a similar way.  Efficient body movement is only produced when the muscles and joints work in synergy. In many ways humans are complicated creatures, for this article let us consider humans as a biomechanical machine.

When certain muscles dominate a movement pattern and do more than their fair share of worka biomechanical “breakdown” occurs. Furthermore, other muscles can stop working (become neurally inhibited) in response to pain or disuse which perpetuates this problem. For example, a quadriceps and hip flexor (muscles in the front of you thigh and hip) dominated movement pattern could cause strain and discomfort in those muscles over time. After those muscles in the front of the thigh have been dominating for a while, the brain doesn’t waste energy communicating with other key muscles like the gluteal muscles and other posterior hip muscles. Basically, if you are constantly over using the muscles in the front of the hip, the muscles in the back of the hip go on vacation. This relative loss of function of the gluteus musclecan lead to a long list of injuries; leading to more pain and muscle inhibition and the nasty cycle continues. 

The importance of physiotherapy lies in the identification of overactive and underactive muscles, physical habits and compensations, and restricted joint mobility. From there you learn how to address those physical shortcomings and help yourself transform your body into an efficient movement machine. As an active person, it is important to realize that most injuries occur over time due to repetitive inefficient movement patterns. The gradual onset of pain creeps up inconspicuously until it one day disrupts function. The other popular way to get injured is to have one traumatic event like a fall or collision. No matter what route is taken to injury, pain is still encountered –This is a good thing! Pain is a very useful tool as it lets you know when it’s time to stop and change your behaviour. It’s important to communicate with a physiotherapist regarding the type of pains you’re experiencing (i.e. dull ache, sharp, stabbing, burning) and when it occurs. Knowing what phase of healing you are in and how to change your behaviour accordingly is important for returning to efficient movement patterns as quickly as possible. Just remember the saying “NO PAIN, NO GAIN” is NOT true in many cases. 

Adopting an active lifestyle can transform your life in many positive ways and you may even feel “super human” compared to your old self. Even though you may feel super human, the likelihood of you being a “super human healer” is very unlikely. When an injury occurs, respect the pain and listen to it – if you don’t know what it’s telling you ask someone who would know! More than likely the pain is telling you to stop and change your behaviour. Depending on the severity of injury or “tweak”, normal healthy human physiology needs up to 1-2 weeks just to process the inflammatory phase of healing – the first of three essential phases of healing towards a full recovery. The entire healing process can take months!

A very useful component of a physiotherapy session is to learn what you can do and when you can do it. Just because you are in the middle of a healing process does not mean you can’t be active. In fact, key rehab exercises are an integral part of the road to recovery. Often, you may not even need to physiologically “strengthen” a muscle but simply re-educate particular muscles that you haven’t been using to their full potential. This can be done initially with manual prompting by the physiotherapist but nothing re-educates movement better than physical practice on your part (i.e. your rehab exercises)

If you have a nagging injury or think you may not be moving as efficiently as possible, get your engine checked! Talk to a physiotherapist.

Scott Dunne – BScHKMScPT
Physiotherapist, Pilates Instructor, Owner
ATHLETIFY – Physio, Pilates, Fitness, Golf
15105 Yonge Street, Unit 105 
Aurora, Ontario

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