PT Basics…Foundations

Clients often ask me about some of the applications we utilize with training and rehabilitation. They will query if an intervention is a fundamental principle in physical therapy, or perhaps even one of my unique twists on those tenets.

This short post is an introduction to PT Basics — and I’ll present a few foundations in PT, along with a few points about posture. PT Basics will be a regularly appearing show format on the podcast, and I’ll try to provide some actionable pearls of wellness and performance wisdom. Stuff that you can easily understand and put to work in your own health and fitness endeavors.

I always try to address a performance or pain problem with a functional approach. It’s important to analyze how a body functions or operates, both in static and dynamic circumstances. How we position and move our human machines often provides the answer to getting stronger and faster or getting rid of pain. By determining the root cause of movement dysfunction, and addressing restrictions in mobility and stability, we solve problems and achieve goals.

Here are a few common sense observations and recommendations regarding pain:

  • Let’s focus on non-traumatic sources of pain (not acute fractures, crazy stupid overload, etc.) and assume that most “overuse” injuries are the result of inefficient load management. This causes overstress-strain-breakdown-inflammation-pain-injury.
  • Whenever you have pain, notice what causes it and what makes it feel better. Most of the time this is due to position and motion. As simple as this sounds, do less of what aggravates your pain and more of what relieves it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people tell me they kept doing aggravating things every hour to test or check and see if the pain is going away.
  • Simply improve habits to remove or reduce below threshold the tissue aggravators and the body heals itself in most cases.
  • Concurrently fix the mobility/stability restrictions (primarily with targeted therapeutic exercise) and the body restores normal function. As opposed to just treating symptoms and gaining temporary relief, optimizing movement mechanics insures that the problem does not return.

And when it comes to fitness and athletic performance, here are a couple suggestions:

  • Ask yourself what you want out of your performance. What I mean here is that you should identify your one, major objective very clearly. “What am I trying to accomplish…where am I on the goal achievement continuum right now…what is a realistic timeline to get there?”
  • Study your sport or fitness goal and determine the major constituents. “What are the requirements for mobility, endurance, strength, speed and how do I best train my unique body to maximize these parameters?”
  • Uncover the one thing you need or lack the most. “What, in terms of my pursuit, do I consider my greatest weakness and how can I go about shoring that capacity up?
  • Work on that weakness until it becomes less of one. Temporarily bias your training to focus on your deficit and bring it up.
  • Strengths rule…on the battlefield, in sports, and in LIFE! Find yours and maximize it.
  • Test and retest, adjust…win! Assess the effect of training, hit some markers along the way, modify as needed based on the data you collect, don’t give up, execute, see it through to your much-deserved victorious outcome! Work hard and smart — apply effort intelligently.

And a great place from which to launch any rehab or training program, is from a solid platform of ideal posture:

  • Posture reflects your attitude toward life. Studies show that when your sense of well-being is enhanced you tend to stand a little taller and appear more approachable and capable. And when you are feeling down, simply focusing on uplifting your posture can elevate your mood.
  • Posture has a positive impact on your health in many ways. The quality of breathing, swallowing, voice, and digestion are all improved with good posture. Spinal comfort and the absence of pain are also major pluses.
  • Good posture is easy to visualize. It’s simply existing in space with good alignment as we were designed. Symmetrical from side to side when viewed from the front. Not twisted when viewed from the top. And lining up fairly (some leeway here) straight at the ear-shoulder-elbow-hip-knee-ankle when viewed from the side.
  • Fixing postural problems isn’t overly difficult in most cases. In fact it’s usually fairly simple. Practicing those alignment principles in front of a mirror, with focused, relaxed breathing, is a great way to cue yourself. Then carry that form into most movements and positions. If this doesn’t get you all of the way there, working with a PT and learning the right exercises for your needs can get the job done.
  • Postural enhancement is a free source of rapid pain relief, faster healing, and better athletic performance. Just like any movement machine, when our bodies are tuned up, they deliver more horsepower, are more economical with fuel consumption, and they last longer due to less wear and tear.

So those are just a few PT Basics. If you want to take a deeper dive on these subjects, check out the shows on Fundamentals or Posture, or both. I’ll be inserting more of these posts and episodes in the future, and will include some athletic training secrets and also some step-by-step guides for managing common injuries. Thanks for reading and have an A-kicking day!

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