Physical Therapy or Strength Training? Which One Do I Need?

patient doing strengthening exercises

I want to get stronger.  Do I need physical therapy or strength training?  We are often asked this question.  Many times people feel they are in a gray area somewhere between fully recovered and needing just a little extra.  We call that gap the last 10%.  The majority of places you go to be treated for rehabilitation have constructs.  Many times, these are the baseline of what you need to be able to function.  That leaves above average physically active people in a lurch.  We need more.  So where does this leave us?  Stuck in the gray area.  How do you get out?  There are a few different options.  We want to help clarify for you when is the right time to seek help for your issues, what to do once you do, and discuss other options if physical therapy isn’t right for you. 

I Need More

So many of our patients come to us aware they need more.  Their complaints range from frustrations about troubleshooting on their own to post physical therapy still having pain.  Self diagnosis can be scary and sometimes detrimental to get wrong.  You don’t want to cause further injury or distress to an area that you’re already having trouble with.  It takes only a moment to injure yourself, but weeks or months to recover.  With that kind of turnaround time the health of your body is something you need to protect.  If your car was making a terrible noise when you hit the brakes, how long would you let it go before taking it to the garage to find out what it is?  For your own safety and everyone else’s around you I hope it wouldn’t be too long!

Continuing to struggle with discomfort post physical therapy is a common thing we hear about.  Many places generalize your care so everyone facing the same issue gets the same set of exercises.  Because of this lack of attention to your specific body, they aren’t able to provide above average active people like yourself with both enough range of motion and strength you need to get you back doing what you love.  It can be particularly frustrating because isn’t that what you went for?

Dr. Chloe educating a patient on injury prevention and body mechanics

Physical Therapy

So here we are.  Post injury and faced with that nagging feeling in the pit of your stomach of uncertainty and anxiety.  What’s even worse is that pain that just won’t seem to subside every time you try to do something outside the box of normal. What are you going to do about it?  Make an appointment for physical therapy or strength training?  Maybe you’re going to take your chances by crossing your fingers and hoping it goes away?  No!  If you’re facing pain and strength issues because of an injury or trauma the answer is come in and see us.  We can help navigate the issues you’re facing and get you back to your 100%.  

Now that you decided you don’t want to navigate these muddy waters alone, you can expect clear directions from our doctors.  You want to start by making an appointment.  From there we can assess what aspect of your recovery needs a little extra attention.  Often what we see happen is an imbalance with strength and mobility resulting in residual discomfort.  The area is either very strong but not moving well, or moving well but without the stability to keep it in good positioning.  Sometimes even a combination of both.  No matter what, you can expect a thorough assessment with a detailed plan of attack on how to move forward.

Dr. Chloe providing manual physical therapy before strength training

Strength Training

So what if my issues aren’t stemming from an injury?  As active people there are always bumps in the road.  We need to listen to our bodies to make sure we are taking care of ourselves.  If you’ve tried resting, ice, heat, and many other typical types of recovery without progress, it might be good for you to try a rehabilitative program.  It is a middle ground between therapy and trying to fix it yourself. These types of programs offer guidance and typically involve mobility and strength training. 

Not all of these programs are created equal!  Make sure you’re doing diligent research on the program you choose.  Because these are created by trained professionals you can feel confident that you will be taking care of the entire joint, not just the part you think might be the issue.  Next week we are going to deep dive what to look for in a strength training program.  That way if and when you need to find a good one you have the tools to choose with confidence.

Still Having Doubts?

If you’re still not sure if physical therapy or strength training is right for you, make an appointment.  The worst that is going to happen is we will send you home with exercises to help you.  Hang on…  We would do that no matter what!  Don’t wait.  You don’t need to live every day with discomfort or pain.  Take charge of your recovery and know you don’t need to settle.

If you’re having tightness or discomfort in your shoulders and back, this is an excellent exercise to loosen you up.  The twist action coupled with your arm sweeping helps unlock both rotational mobility and thoracic extention.

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Dr. Chloe and John