A common query that our team commonly fields is when a client should they see their physiotherapist. Our physiotherapist Jason Lee explains when to see your physiotherapist and why often seeing your health professional sooner rather than later is often the best scenario.
When should you see a physiotherapist?
As soon as possible! Following a musculoskeletal injury, it is highly recommended to see an experience physiotherapist sooner rather than later. Your physiotherapist will be able to perform a thorough assessment to accurately diagnose and treat your injury.
I regularly see clients who are often in limbo after sustaining an injury for several weeks. In between possibly a visit to a doctor, getting investigations such as X-rays or MRI’s, by the time they often see myself it can be a period of several weeks. Unfortunately, during this period, we know that a number of negative events continue to occur following injury.
Our previous blog highlighted What actually happens following injury? and the healing process. However, we also know that following an injury, if left untreated there is often a deterioration in strength and function to the surrounding muscles. We also tend to compensate due to pain or fear of doing more damage. Both this compensation and lack of strength can commonly result in further pain, dysfunction and further lack of confidence around the injured site.
For example, earlier this week I saw a patient following an ankle sprain. A common response to an ankle sprain is to compensate by placing less weight through the injured foot. Unfortunately this quickly results in less flexibility and strength around the foot, ankle and calf. As a result, this can often result in more swelling and ultimately a longer recovery and healing time.
What happens when you see a physiotherapist?
On your initial assessment, your physiotherapist will perform a thorough physical and medical assessment to figure out what is happening. By performing a range of tests, your physiotherapist will be able to diagnose your injury and develop a treatment plan.
These physical tests may involve observing you do a range of movements such as sitting, standing, walking or running. They may also move your limbs to check flexibility or palpate (feel) to get an understanding of what may be happening. A number of other physical tests may also be performed which include examining stability, strength and endurance. Generally these tests will be pain free but some tests may cause mild discomfort. By providing feedback on how it is feeling, this will assist your physiotherapist to narrow down and find the cause of your symptoms.
After these tests, your physiotherapist will be able to provide you a diagnoses and commence treatment. This will often commence in the first session. Your physiotherapist will be able to answer any questions or queries around your injury. This will commonly include what can be done at home to improve healing and recovery. Likewise, your physiotherapist will be able to discuss what activities need to be modified or avoided in order to prevent further injury.
Can a physiotherapist refer for imaging?
If required, your physiotherapist is able to refer for further investigations. These may include X-rays, ultrasounds or MRIs.
Importantly, it is crucial to note that imaging without a thorough physical medical assessment does not commonly help with diagnoses or identifying what may be causing symptoms. Image findings can often show results or changes which may actually be normal and totally unrelated to symptoms.
If you have had imaging, feel free to speak to your physiotherapist or medical professional about what these results could mean in relation to your injury.
If you every find yourself in this position not knowing what to do following an injury, see a trusted physiotherapist as soon as possible. A good physiotherapist will help you get moving in the right direction and make an informed decision if further imaging or input is required.