Are you dealing with tightness in the hips? Lower back stiffness when waking up in the morning? Minor discomfort in the shoulders when reaching overhead? Back pain when lifting your son/daughter out of the crib?

I hear it ALL THE TIME. A patient will tell me how for weeks, months, sometimes even years, they were dealing with symptoms and didn’t feel quite right until one day they felt a popping sensation in the knee…or their back gave out when reaching to pick up their shoes…or a number of other scenarios. It’s not as uncommon as you’d think.

It’s unfortunate because it may have been preventable with a PROACTIVE mindset. There is this misconception with physical therapy that you ONLY go to it when you are injured. I’m trying to change that. Just like going to your general practitioner for a yearly physical, why not go to your physical therapist for a yearly movement screening? Rather than reacting to an injury once it occurs, a proactive mindset allows you to get ahead of the curve and nip symptoms in the bud before they have the chance to evolve into something more.

A physical therapy evaluation assesses a number of different variables such as mobility, joint range of motion, strength, functional movements (i.e., squats, deadlifts), balance, along with much more. Maybe that hip tightness you’re feeling can be resolved with a few mobility exercises. Maybe that lower back stiffness just needed some core strengthening so that you’re able to handle your day-to-day activities. It could simply be a matter of assessing your work environment and making minor changes in order to place your body in optimal positioning.

If you’re still not convinced, think about all the money you’ll save in the long haul. There’s no need for x-rays and/or MRIs. You won’t have numerous copays for doctor’s appointments. How about the cost of medication? Don’t even get me started about the cost of surgery. It isn’t cheap! A proactive mindset doesn’t require any of these added costs.

Here’s an example of a recent patient I saw in the clinic. She was a young soccer player dealing with knee pain for months. She would get about halfway through practice or games and would start to experience sharp pain in the joint when running. After our PT evaluation together, we found that her glutes were weak, she was lacking hip mobility, and needed to improve on her squat mechanics so that she was moving more efficiently. These are all fairly easy to resolve with a proper strengthening program and had she focused on these deficits months ago, maybe she wouldn’t have needed an extended stint in physical therapy.

Following completion of physical therapy, she had improved her squat mechanics, along with landing mechanics when jumping. She improved her hip mobility and glute strength, which took stress off the knee since she wasn’t compensating with activities throughout the day. She felt more efficient with her movement patterns and it transferred to her play on the field. Most importantly, she was more confident because she knew she had the strength to handle anything soccer threw at her.

This is just one scenario, but it shows the benefits of a proactive mindset. At the end of the day, no one knows your body better than yourself. Listen to your body and get the attention you need, so that you can enjoy the activities that you love. You may be surprised by the results.

More times than not, I find that patients feel stronger than ever after working together simply because they’ve optimized their movement patterns. If you’re an athlete, this could mean better performance! Now who wouldn’t want that?! Your goal doesn’t have to be something extravagant like running a marathon. It might just be that you want to be pain free when playing with your grandchildren. Whatever it is, I think we can all agree that we want to enjoy the activities we love PAIN FREE.

Make the shift today. Be proactive, not reactive!