By Dr. Scott Eddins, PT, DPT, CCCE
Dr. Scott Eddins, PT, DPT, CCCE is a physical therapist at Kinetix Physical Therapy in Gainesville, FL. He graduated from the University of Florida with a Bachelor of Science in applied physiology & kinesiology in 2012 and also received his Doctor of Physical Therapy from the University of Florida in 2016. Scott has been a member of the Kinetix family since 2011 as a volunteer, undergraduate intern and rehab aide prior to attending physical therapy school.
My athletic friend visits a physical therapist even though she is not recovering from injury. Why would she do this? What is the benefit?
Physical therapists are highly trained movement specialists who can work with individuals of all ages and ability levels to maximize their mobility and function with activities of daily living, work, sports and recreational activities. You do not have to wait for an injury to happen to take advantage of the benefits of seeing a physical therapist. Physical therapists can help identify abnormal movement patterns and muscle imbalances (in strength and flexibility, for example) that can increase risk for injuries or falls. Through our movement analysis, we can also provide guidance on how to enhance an athlete’s performance. For example, by improving trunk and hip rotation and abdominal strength, a golfer can significantly increase his driving distance. Our goal is to offer help with how to reduce that risk for injury and maximize performance potential.
I work a desk job and I’ve been experiencing some neck and back pain as a result. What can I do mitigate that pain? Would investing in a standing desk help?
Many people who work behind a desk experience neck and/or back pain. The desk is often not necessarily the problem in isolation, but rather in combination with a poor overall work station setup, including the relationship between the chair and desk, the keyboard and mouse, and the telephone or other frequently used items. To mitigate pain and decrease the recurrence of pain, a treatment plan should include education about proper work station setup or utilizing services of an ergonomic specialist who is specifically trained to do this. Simply getting up to walk around the office can make a big difference in pain and productivity. Sitting with proper posture and changing positions frequently can go a long way in helping to reduce muscle strain and muscle fatigue, which are common culprits for producing neck or back pain. Physical therapists use hands-on therapy manual therapy, such as massage and joint mobilization, to help loosen the joints and muscles, particularly around the spine, that can stiffen over time with prolonged sitting. Physical therapists also instruct specific exercises to help maintain the mobility of the neck and back and strengthen the muscles that help to stabilize the spine. Standing desks can be great, but moderation is the key. Being able to stand for shorter intervals (up to 1 to 2 hours) is a good way to avoid prolonged sitting postures, but standing all day may lead to increased muscle fatigue and back pain if that is something you are not used to doing.
I’m afraid to visit a physical therapist because I’ve heard that it is painful. Is that true?
Seeing a physical therapist should be a healing and positive experience, not a painful one. Although many times people are coming to us because they are in pain and need help, our goal is to expedite their recovery process and successfully move from the acute stage of injury back to full function. If you ever have pain, you should discuss this immediately with your physical therapy provider and make necessary modifications.
As my parents have gotten older, I’ve gotten more concerned about the risk of them falling and injuring themselves. Can physical therapy really help decrease that risk? How?
Falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for older Americans and threaten seniors’ safety and independence. Falls also generate enormous economic and personal costs, with falls among adults over 65 years old costing $50 billion in 2015, according to Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Falling is by no means an inevitable result of aging, however. Numerous studies show that lifestyle changes, exercise and fall prevention programs reduce the number of falls among seniors, and physical therapy is at the forefront of these interventions. In physical therapy, a PT would evaluate why a patient is having balance problems and discuss their home environment. Based on their findings, a PT would offer suggestions to decrease fall risk around the home or community, prescribe different exercises, and work on specific activities to safely improve someone’s balance and reduce their fall risk.
I keep forgetting to do the exercises my physical therapist told me to do. How important is it for me to stick to my home exercise program between visits?
Home exercise programs are a vital part of success during an episode of care with a physical therapist. Our bodies have an amazing ability to adapt to any stimuli placed on them. A simple example would be the muscle soreness associated with strengthening exercises. When we do resistance training, such as lifting a dumbbell, this creates microtrauma to our muscles. Due to this microtrauma we feel soreness and discomfort. If we continue to weight train, this provides the stimulus to our body to get stronger so that lifting the same weight no longer creates this soreness. So, that means proper exercise dosing and doing exercise at home in addition to in the clinic is very important to create the changes we need in our bodies to be able to perform at an optimal level.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
In Florida, you can be treated by a physical therapist for 30 days without a referral; not everyone knows that! I would recommend people become established with a physical therapist as they do with other health care practitioners, like their primary care doctor. Whether you are having difficulty enjoying life because of pain, wanting to learn more about how to maximize your movement, or are unable to complete the activities you once could, physical therapy is the answer.