Most people visit a doctor or a physical therapist when they are in pain. When a patient comes to see me, he/she will typically have a diagnosis from their doctor such as low back pain, or shoulder impingement. The patient will be eager to tell me where they hurt. The location of pain is obviously helpful to know, but my job is to successfully determine the cause of the pain.
First, let’s talk about why we have pain. Pain is basically a warning signal, letting us know that something is wrong. Interestingly, the source of the pain (the location where the pain is coming from) is often different from the cause of the pain (the dysfunctional areas in our body that lead to altered movement mechanics and then compensatory pain). Here is an example: Say someone comes to see me because their right shoulder started hurting, with no specific injury. The patient will be focused on the painful area, but I need to evaluate the surrounding areas (such as the cervical spine, thoracic spine, scapula, and elbow) to determine if dysfunction somewhere else has resulted in movement compensation and pain in the shoulder. If my only focus is on reducing the pain, we could do modalities (heat, ice, ultrasound, EStim) to the painful area, or have the patient take pain meds or anti-inflammatory meds. This may help to temporarily relieve the pain, but it does not correct the dysfunction that led to the pain, and will result in only short term gains at best. However, if I find the dysfunction and identify the cause of the pain, we can work to correct the dysfunction and fix the problem. That will not only result in improvement in symptoms, but also a long term fix to keep the pain from returning!
All rehabilitation professionals (PT’s, OT’s, Chiropractors) have talents and skills for treating the body. However, the most talented professionals have the ability to accurately diagnose the cause of your problem so that they can treat it correctly to achieve long term success. No matter how good our skills are, if we can’t identify what is causing your pain, we will not be able to treat it properly.
Fortunately for you, the PT’s at Hudsonville Physical Therapy are skilled at both diagnosing the cause of your pain, as well as treating the dysfunction to give you lasting improvement. Remember, don’t just treat the pain…let us help you find the cause so that we can correct the problem!
By Mason Riegel, PT, (SFMA, FMS 1 & 2 Certified)
Steve Bartz, PT