By Ross Bodine, PT, DPT, FAAOMPT
You’re running along just fine and your right knee starts to hurt – just a little – and it keeps on hurting – just a little bit more. You’ve been hitting it pretty hard lately and start to wonder if you’re over training. But think about it: Why does the right knee hurt? Why not the left? You aren’t taking more steps with your right leg. Your left leg does just as much work, and it feels fine! So the argument that you’re over training just doesn’t hold up. Something else must be going on.
Nagging injuries that come out of nowhere usually stem from repeated abnormal movements. Just like tires wear unevenly when a car is out of alignment, if your body is out of alignment, your knee, in this example, experiences abnormal stress. We humans have a huge advantage over cars: we can heal our own tissues! But when “funny” movements become the norm, abnormal forces can impact one structure repeatedly. Your body may be unable to adapt fast enough.
This is where neuromuscular re-education comes in. As experts in movement, Physical Therapists can help you change faulty patterns that cause injuries. Using our eyes and hands, we’ll help you learn better movement patterns that distribute forces more evenly throughout your body. Your injury can be given the time it needs to heal, while still performing activities you love. In fact, continuing to be active will even speed your recovery! Complete rest slows healing due to decreased blood flow. Changes in your central nervous system also make controlling that area more difficult. So keeping you moving, and moving correctly, is extremely important.
After my assessment, I might work on joint mobility. For example, a stiff ankle can impact your ability to move your hip. Then I prescribe simple exercises that don’t stress your body, but make you think about how you move in a way that doesn’t stress the injured area, but distributes forces more evenly. As these simple movements become automatic I progress to exercises that are more demanding, yet still make you think about how you move. “As I take my patients through new movement patterns, I often tell them that their brains should be working a lot harder than their bodies,” says Ross.
Not only can we rehabilitate an injury, we can prevent one! So if something just feels “funny” when you move, get it checked out before it becomes a problem. It’s a lot easier to change a movement pattern before you’re hurt since the brain and spinal cord haven’t made adaptations to protect the area.
You’ve heard it before – exercise is the key to better health and well-being. Don’t let an injury get in your way of staying active. Schedule an appointment with an ALTA PT today and keep moving in the right direction!