The importance of an annual exam with a physical therapist

Dr. David Bertone
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Dr. David Bertone

By David Bertone, PT, DPT, OCS

Are you active, suffer from nagging pain after activity, or ache at the end of the day from work? You might want to see your physical therapist for a physical therapy (PT) annual exam.  P

eople have a dentist, primary care physician and veterinarian for the pets that they visit yearly. Why not have someone that can perform a movement examination and prevent early problems from developing into catastrophic injuries? This would help prioritize our bodies and the ability to move as essential life functions and ensure a well-oiled human machine.

The statistics are alarming. One out of 2 U.S. adults have a musculoskeletal disorder that impacts their quality of life, costing an estimated $213 billion each year in treatment and lost wages (U.S. Bone and Joint Initiative 2016). How about 8 out of 10 Americans will suffer low back pain at some point in their life, costing $87 billion/year in healthcare dollars alone. This accounts for 25% of all health care dollars and the same amount spent on cancer per year. Preventing, educating and treating early signs and symptoms associated with movement disorders makes sense to help reduce these statistics. It is always best to address early onset of pain or injury to save healthcare dollars downstream when the problems become more chronic and harder to treat.

As it turns out, your primary care physician isn’t specifically trained to assess your musculoskeletal system, which is comprised of your muscles, bones, cartilage, tendons, ligaments, joints and other connective tissues. Then who is the right healthcare professional to ensure that these essential internal structures are working properly and helping to support, stabilize and move your body? A physical therapist.

At a yearly physical therapy “checkup,” your physical therapist will gather your medical history and observe as you participate in screening tests and other assessments to establish a baseline of your physical abilities, fitness level and personal health. Physical therapists are educated on how your musculoskeletal system functions properly and are trained to identify dysfunctions before they grow into bigger problems.

To maximize the encounter with your physical therapist, it’s important to be prepared before your appointment. To ensure that you cover everything and address any issues you may be having, make a list that includes health issues like diabetes or high blood pressure; current medications, including supplements; physical fitness activities; new activities you’re considering; and fitness goals.

The information exchange between you and your physical therapist is critical to forming an ongoing relationship, and to ensuring that you’re functioning and moving at top form. By understanding what sports and recreational activities you’re currently participating in and the fitness goals you’re aiming to achieve, your physical therapist will be better prepared to make recommendations and tailor a home exercise program designed to help you achieve your goals. Making wellness a part of your everyday life and taking steps to ensure that your musculoskeletal system is functioning at top notch can be very empowering and rewarding. Why not begin — or continue — that journey with a physical therapist? Now that you know how to prepare for a physical therapy checkup, and understand what you can expect during the appointment, the next step is to call and schedule your annual visit.

Dr. Bertone is a doctoral trained physical therapist and board-certified orthopedic clinical specialist by the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties. He is president/owner of db Orthopedic Physical Therapy with locations in Lincroft and Manalapan. Dr. Bertone can be reached at 732-747-1262 or via email at dbertone@dborthopt.com.