Going, going, going, ouch! Having to stop running because of an overuse injury is a serious buzzkill. The good news is a physical therapist can help identify the source of the problem, get it fixed and prevent future aches and pains. First you have to figure out what type of physical therapy is best for you, whether it is manual (what most people think of when they think of physical therapy) or another process like dry needling or acupuncture. After you begin treatment, there are a few key things you should look out for. If your physical therapist does any of the following things, consider them to be red flags.
Watch out if your physical therapist…
…allows you to run while on pain meds.
A shot of cortisone will block pain and inflammation, which might make you feel better, but physical therapist Bruce R. Wilk always tells patients not to run for at least three weeks afterward. Loading up already stressed muscles or joints can cause a more serious, lifelong injury, he warns.
…touches you inappropriately.
Physical therapy is a touchy profession, and while running injuries can sometimes happen in sensitive areas, inappropriate touching is always a no-no. “Inappropriate is inappropriate,” Wilk says.
…doesn’t teach you proper running form.
The most common injuries occur in novice runners who have never been taught how to balance their body while in motion, Wilk says. A good physical therapist will put you on a treadmill to make sure your body is moving symmetrically and teach you how to work up to a pace and cadence for the speed or distance you’re aiming for.
…sells you on any quick-fix cures.
Most physical therapy regimens involve several sessions of manual therapy, exercise and teaching of proper form, with lots of reassessment. Anything short of two sessions is a waste of time, Wilk says.