The body is an amazing healer and force for change. The body will often heal itself, but maybe not in the right way. Like a beautifully shaped tree, it grows and adapts. How it forms in the end has a strong correlation to how it is pruned and nurtured over time. We have all seen similar results from our own bodies. All injuries, from a small finger sprain, to a general abdominal surgery, to a simple broken bone, will heal with time. The difference in outcome and resulting function has to do with how the body is adequately stressed as it is healing. For example, as ligaments heal, will they be over-stretched and permit hypermobility (too much flexibility)? Will a scar form that will limit general range of motion due to adhesions? Will bone demineralize or adapt to appropriate stress? How we use our bodies in large part shapes our bodies.
When left on its own, the body will heal, but just like a tree that grows sideways in a windy canyon, tissues only adapt to the forces they encounter. Developing compensations in order to avoid painful activities will inhibit optimal outcomes. So when I’m asked what kind of injuries need physical therapy, my response is, “If your body is healing, you need physical therapy.” You need someone who knows how to tend to, nurture, and adequately stress tissue to achieve optimal outcomes.
Some would say the longer you do something, the harder it is to change. I propose that the longer you do something (whether correctly or incorrectly), the more you are changing in that direction. For example, the body, like all living organisms, takes the path of least resistance when given the chance. We have all experienced this; when something is hard or hurts, our first inclination is to avoid it. The longer we persist in using our strongest muscles and avoid working the weak ones, the more overworked the strong ones become and the weaker the weak ones become. This is the case in most of my back pain patients. Our bodies are always changing, and they have the potential to change the other way, but the stress has to be correct. You don’t become stronger and get rid of back pain by lifting heavy objects with your back; that is intuitive.
If you have an incision in your foot, the doctor will put in stitches. Who will massage the scar? Prevent adhesion of healing tissue? Maintain range of motion while the foot heals? And prevent back and hip compensation from an altered walking pattern? Your physical therapist can do this for you. That is why I love physical therapy! I can help people heal, and when they are done with therapy, they are closer to optimal function than they were even prior to injury.
Our bodies have immense power for change and a physical therapist can facilitate that change for the better.