Many athletes use pain as the end point of an exercise workout, measuring their success by degree of soreness. The body signals you when are nearing safe limits of exercise. For example, there could be perceived exertion, feelings of fatigue, shortness of breath, having to concentrate harder, and/or sweating more. Sports, by their very nature, invite injury.
The physical therapist is a key member of the total health care “team,” trained to improve movement and function, relieve pain and expand mobility potential. Through educational programs of treatment, physical therapists can help existing programs and provide preventive health care for athletes.
The phrase ‘no pain, no gain’ is only partially true. The phrase is generally associated with strength training, and people who have used it to guide their exercise program have gotten stronger. The training is actually taken to the point where minor tears occur in the muscles, signaling the body to build stronger muscles so future tearing doesn’t occur.
But the body has to repair the damage before building up any muscles. So, in essence, the strength training occurs at a pace of two steps forward and one step backward. Actually, one can train at a pace of one step forward, one step forward, etc., without having to suffer any pain.
Decreasing skin tightness and connective tissue tightness can increase tolerance to pain. Tightness in the skin and connective tissue surrounding the nervous tissue can create a more sensitive system, and more easily stimulated pain fibers. If you can increase slack in your nervous system, it makes you less taut with less likelihood your nerves will fire off pain signals.
You can use techniques to help increase your tolerance to pain, or you can modify your activities to allow the healing process to take place. Many physical therapy exercises include techniques to decrease the mechanical deformation of tissues, which helps alleviate pain.
The American Physical Therapy Association describes physical therapy as a form of health care that prevents, identifies, corrects and alleviates acute or prolonged dysfunction of movement of an anatomic or physiologic origin. Begun in time, physical therapy can often prevent permanent damage and relieve pain and discomfort. If a serious injury is neglected, it might cause life-long disability or even complete loss of function.
Physical therapists can design a specific program for you or a member of your family that will strengthen muscles and be sport-specific so serious injuries will be held to a minimum. They can work with you and show you strengthening exercises and teach you how to maintain your fitness and alleviate muscle soreness and pain.
Sheila Yonemoto, P.T., has been a physical therapist for more than 30 years, specializing in integrative manual therapy, utilizing a holistic approach. She can be reached at Yonemoto Physical Therapy, 55 S. Raymond Ave., Suite 100, Alhambra, CA 91801. Sheila also offers a qigong “Chinese energy” exercise class. Your first class is free. Call (626) 576-0591 for more information or visit www.yonemoto.com.