“It will go away by itself.” “It doesn’t hurt that badly today.” “It hasn’t stopped me from doing what I want to do.” Does this sound remotely familiar? As a Physiotherapist, I have heard it all!
In today’s fast paced society, it is becoming more and more common to ignore the early warning signs of musculoskeletal dysfunction such as pain with activity or movement. Sitting for too long causing a back ache? Grabbing your cup of coffee in the morning causing elbow pain? Transitioning from sitting to standing causing a sharp pain in your low back? Well, you are not alone and you most certainly do not need to be suffering.
As many as 70-80% of all individuals in industrialized countries will suffer from low back pain at some point during their lives, and it is the number one cause of disability in people under 45 (Gatchel et al., 2003). It has also become one of the costliest problems in the North American workplace, and was estimated to cost the United States alone over 85 billion dollars in direct healthcare costs annually, with that amount increasing every year (Childs et al., 2012). You don’t have to look far to find someone complaining about their shoulder, neck, elbow or knee problem as well. “I have weak ankles” is another one I hear often. We all deal with some form of musculoskeletal pain during our lives for various reasons, whether they are traumatic or non-traumatic. These non-traumatic injuries can be caused by various things, such as posture, inflexible muscles, nerve compression or weak muscles. At the end of the day, why suffer and miss out on the activities you want to be doing?
Current research indicates that early Physiotherapy intervention has led to many positive outcomes and that the postponement to initiate Physiotherapy has been shown to prolong returning to work and to increase incidence of developing chronic pain (Zigenfus et al., 2000). You may not realize it, but delaying care for a sore, tight or weak body part may in fact be detrimental to a completely separate area of your body. For example, with those weak ankles we talked about, if the pain or weakness alters your gait (as discussed in last week’s blog) in order for you to “tolerate” the pain, this can have a deleterious effect on the knees, hips or low back causing more stress and strain on them and resulting in a second point of injury. Another example would be your sore elbow. If avoiding using your arm allows the elbow to feel better, it’s human nature to try to reduce the amount of activity done by your arm. What you may not know is the impact this will have on the joints above and below the shoulder and wrist. The body is a complex chain of interconnected tissues and muscles and not addressing a weak or a stuck area in the chain can result in more problem spots in that chain.
Early active Physiotherapy has been shown to improve outcomes in disability, general health, social function, anxiety and mental health compared to individuals who wait only a few weeks more to initiate Physiotherapy (Wand et al., 2004). What’s even better is that the individuals who received early intervention ended up needing fewer Physiotherapy visits compared to those who delayed initiating their treatments, which saves you money (Zigenfus et al., 2000). Even when factoring in the cost of Physiotherapy, early intervention costs almost half as much as no intervention when considering the cost of health care visits, medications and lost wages from being absent from work (Gatchel et al., 2003). So, not only will you have to take less time off work (and have more money), but you will be pain free that much sooner! Imagine waking up and not worrying about how your shoulder, back, knee or elbow is going to hurt or limit what you will be able to accomplish that day. Physiotherapists like myself are here to help you reach your goals and get you moving!
So, what does this all mean? If you book in to see a trained Physiotherapist before your pain is severe, you will end up being pain free sooner with less time taken off work, better mental health and with more money in your wallet. We will perform a detailed history to garner a better understanding of the nature of your pain, while taking into consideration your personal goals for what you want to achieve. These can be seeking less pain, wanting to be more active, learning self-management strategies or trying to run a marathon in the summer. We will then find the root cause of the pain through a global assessment that will include, but is not limited to, looking at range of motion, strength and flexibility. The cause of the pain could be due to a multitude of reasons, such as dysfunction at the spine, muscle imbalances, nerve compression or joint stiffness.
By understanding the root cause of the pain you are dealing with, we have many options to not only improve the physical symptoms such as an aching or decreased range of motion; but can also begin to fix the true cause of your pain. We will then decide how to best guide treatment moving forward, as there are many tools available to assist. There are also a wide variety of local modalities available to assist with decreasing the pain while also increasing blood flow to the area, which increases the speed of healing. Simple modalities such as heat and ice, when used appropriately to fit your stage of healing, can have a massive impact on muscle tone, swelling and pain relief. More complex modalities such as TENS, Ultrasound, IFC and NMES use sound waves or electrical currents to help with a variety of symptoms such as pain, decreased muscle motor recruitment, swelling or muscle spasm. The Therapist will also prescribe a personalized home exercise program that could include stretches for tight muscles, range of motion for stiff joints, strengthening for weak muscles or balance exercises to restore dynamic function all with the sole purpose of getting you back to 100%!
Don’t be a slave to your pain – book in an appointment today. Call us at our Thorncliffe location 403.275.7728. Blake our enthusiastic and caring Physiotherapist that would be happy to help you achieve your goals!
Childs, J.D., Flynn, T.W., & Wainner, R.S. (2012). Low back pain: Do the right thing and do it now. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, 42(4), 296-299.
Gatchel, R.J., Polatin, P.B., Noe, C., Gardea, M., Pulliam, C., & Thompson, J. (2003). Treatment and cost-effectiveness of early intervention for acute low back pain patients: A one-year prospective study. Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, 13(1), 1-9.
Wand, B.M., Bird, C., McHauley, J.H., Doré, C.J., MacDowell, M. & De Souza, L.H. (2004). Early intervention for the management of acute low back pain: A single blind randomized controlled trial of biopsychosocial education, manual therapy, and exercise. Spine, 29(21), 2350-2356.
Zigenfus, G.C., Yin, J., Giang, G.M. & Fogarty, W.T. (2000). Effectiveness of early physical therapy in the treatment of acute low back musculoskeletal disorders. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 42(1), 35-39.
Blair balances his busy professional life by staying active. He enjoys cycling, swimming, working out, hiking, camping and snowboarding, depending on the season. Blair shares his free time with his wife, son and daughter outside on the weekends. He has learned to enjoy the journey, as life really is too short.
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