Before my physical therapist friends jump all over this, let me say that what I find problematic with physical therapy, is the limited coverage (number of visits allowed by insurance) and the patient’s understanding of their role in their physical well-being once they are released from therapy and are on their own.
Problem #1: Let’s assume you get injured on the job. Your primary care physician refers you to a physical therapist for treatment. The therapist takes you through various rehabilitation modalities that will most likely included some exercises that you will perform. Insurance only pays for “X” number of visits and then you’ll need to continue on your own. More often than not, you do not follow through with your therapy exercises. Without that follow through, the your physical level will begin to decrease from the point when you left physical therapy. This deconditioning sets you up to get injured again.
Problem #2: You, after completing your allotted physical therapy, continue to do your therapy exercises as prescribed, same weights, same repetitions, same number of days per week. I know, that doesn’t sound like a problem, but it is. If you do the same thing over and over again, you get really good at it. It gets easy, and… if it gets easy, you’re no longer challenging yourself. Without the challenge, your conditioning level starts to decrease. Now, it won’t drop as low as if you weren’t doing the exercises, but it will drop below the level that was when it was challenging.
The goal of reconditioning after surgery or injury, should be to get back to where to where you were prior to the event, AND THEN to continue training/conditioning so that you are more capable, more “injury resistant”, and better prepared to do any of the activities that you want. This is true at any age, but even more important as you get older. You can accomplish this by working with your physical therapist until released, then take your exercise prescription to a certified personal trainer that has post-rehab experience. Have the trainer show you how to translate the physical therapy exercises to your gym/health club. Then, come back to the trainer periodically to get an updated program, so you can continue to get stronger, healthier, and ready to tackle the rest of your life. After all, we don’t want to just survive as we get older. We want to thrive!