Physical Therapists are experts at treating and preventing physical causes of pain and movement dysfunction. Our goal is to expedite and facilitate our body’s natural ability to heal. By using specific hands-on techniques, and most importantly active movement and exercise, we can improve the efficiency of how we move and heal. However, pain, healing, and function are not only related to our physical impairments, but are also profoundly affected by sleep, nutrition, and our emotions. It is infrequent that one practitioner or approach is the only answer to an individual’s limitation. Physical Therapists are an important piece of the puzzle, but working closely with other practitioners is often necessary.
Emotions are often a significant factor in an individual’s ability to fully recover and have lasting, long-term results. Unfortunately, emotions and stress are often coined as “Psychological Overlay,” brushed aside, and most frequently ignored in treatment. Our bodies and tissues have a predictable course of healing, given appropriate rehabilitation. If pain persists beyond normal tissue healing time frames into months, years, or even longer, it is most likely due to overly sensitized nerve connections between the brain and the body. Pain can be learned by your nervous system and brain even in the absence of tissue damage. These nerve connections can then be “turned on” due to worrisome thoughts and emotions including fear, anger, anxiety, frustration, and resentment. In short, the brain can produce real pain even after your physical limitations have resolved and your tissues have healed. It is important to address your emotions as part of your full recovery.
The effects of Physical Therapy are also greatly improved with proper nutrition. The body requires an increased amount of energy and protein following an injury and is affected by an individual’s nutritional status at the time of injury. Injury is often associated with low-grade systemic inflammation that can delay healing and also increase the experience of pain. If an individual is lacking proper nutrition before and/or after injury, recovery time is prolonged and pain may persist. Exercise is often dosed to stimulate, facilitate, and improve the body’s ability to heal its own tissues. Proper nutrition, in combination with an appropriate exercise program, will have the optimal effect on cellular regeneration and ability to return to a pain-free, active lifestyle.
Sleep is extremely important, as this is when our body repairs and restores, thus improving our ability to cope with daily tasks. Is pain preventing you from sleeping? Or is a lack of sleep increasing your pain? Studies have shown the answer is multidirectional. Pain enhances arousal and disrupts sleep, and sleep deprivation and disruption increase pain sensitivity. Together they can feed off of each other creating a vicious cycle. There are many ways to improve sleep to allow your body to heal properly and dampen your sensitivity to pain. Talk to your Physical Therapist about “sleep hygiene,” which includes strategies such as avoiding caffeine in the afternoon, alcohol late at night, limiting vigorous exercise in the evening, and doing something relaxing before going to bed. If further options are needed, your therapist will have you follow up with your physician to discuss your sleep habits.
Physical Therapy isn’t about “fixing” you — it is about empowering you to use your body’s own tools to support you in the healing process. Sound sleep, good nutrition, and emotional well-being are powerful tools to combat pain and improve function. An active, compliant, and motivated individual will be a successful individual. Be patient, be committed, and be optimistic.
If you have been injured or are experiencing pain, contact one of MTI Physical Therapy’s seven neighborhood clinics [link to locations page] and schedule an appointment with one of our highly skilled Physical Therapists. Your Physical Therapist can help you initiate your healing journey and give you appropriate referrals to address all areas of your rehabilitation along the way.
“I am a Physical Therapist with over six years of experience. I have a sincere appreciation and understanding of the role the mind-body connection, nutrition, sleep, and work/life balance play in an individual’s quality of life and healing potential. I am also a coffee connoisseur and am passionate about the Spanish language, and Latin American culture, dance, and music.”