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Why Physiotherapy Is Like Brushing Your Teeth

In my 15 years of being a physiotherapist, I’ve observed a common misconception: most people think physiotherapy is only available to them if they have a pre-existing injury or already in pain.

For example, athletes might pursue physiotherapy for the first time only after suffering an unfortunate ACL tear. On the other hand, someone who works a desk job may only schedule a treatment once they’ve been working for many years in that position which caused them to experience chronic neck or back pain. While it’s great to seek physiotherapy to rehabilitate injuries like these, getting ahead of the problem is always more advisable.

I’m not saying that physiotherapy will prevent an ACL tear (something teenagers are 29 times more likely to have surgery for than two decades ago1) or chronic back pain, but it does have the potential to prevent the problem or at least lessen the blow. Similar to brushing our teeth daily to maintain our smiles and avoid tooth decay, you should view physiotherapy as a regular component of your wellness routine.

Don’t Stress, Let Us Assess

Although many don’t realize it, physiotherapists are trained to identify things that are a little bit askew in your body.

For instance, imagine you experience occasional shoulder pain when reaching overhead or lifting objects. You might attribute it to overuse, getting older, or the fact that shoulder disorders are common with a yearly incidence reported to be as high as 55%2. However, when you visit a physiotherapist, they don’t solely focus on the pain in your shoulder – they conduct a comprehensive assessment of your entire body.

During this assessment, physios observe many different things such as your shoulder range of motion, posture, muscle strength, and how you use your arm during various functional activities. They might notice that your shoulder blade (scapula) isn’t moving as smoothly as it should or that your posture includes a slight forward hunch (which puts extra strain on your shoulder). While these are subtle issues, they can strain your rotator cuff tendons and cause pain.

By identifying these underlying problems, physios can create a targeted treatment plan that includes exercises to strengthen your shoulder stabilizers, stretches to improve your posture, and techniques to ensure your scapula moves correctly. This proactive approach not only helps alleviate your current shoulder pain but also reduces the risk of future injuries by addressing the root causes of the imbalance/deficit.

Be Like DAN

My grandfather, who would often introduce himself to people as DAN (Days Are Numbered), would always say, “early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” In the same way, he was proactive about his sleep patterns and encouraged me to be the same, I would highly recommend that you be proactive about your body rather than reactive – not only to prevent injury but to combat issues before they become chronic and harder to rehabilitate.

Let’s go back to the dental example for a second. If you go three months without brushing your teeth, you’ll likely have some cavities to deal with (and judgment from those you interact with). However, if you brush your teeth every day for three months but still find out you have cavities when visiting the dentist, I’m willing to bet they won’t be as severe.

Similarly, for your body, chronic issues often develop insidiously; by the time they are noticeable, they are more difficult to treat. For instance, when looking at the correlation between reported falls and fall-related injuries for adults with and without disabilities in adults aged 45–59 and those older than 60 years old, those with disabilities in both age segments reported higher fall percentages3.

With advanced age, rehabilitation can be even more challenging because our bodies undergo changes. We lose fluid and lubrication between our joints, and arthritis can set in. These factors complicate the healing process and extend the timeline for recovery. So, by being proactive with physiotherapy, you can maintain health, improve mobility, and reduce the risk of these age-related complications.

Be Like My Dad

My dad would always say “knowledge is power” and I’ve seen this repeatedly in my own life. It also has a lot to do with why I firmly believe physiotherapy plays a crucial role in education, making you aware of aspects of your health you might not be privy to.

Physiotherapy is not just about hands massaging you to magically make your pain disappear. It’s about empowering you with information about your anatomy, activity modification that could benefit you, specific exercises and exactly how to execute them correctly, as well as other strategies on how to meet your rehabilitate goals.

So, don’t wait for pain to seek out a physiotherapist; let us educate you, so that you can stay ahead of potential issues to lead a healthier, more active life.

Whether you’re an athlete looking to optimize performance, a senior aiming to maintain independence, or someone simply wanting to live pain-free, physiotherapy can provide the tools and guidance you need – we’d be happy to explain more.