In many cases, a sports-related injury - a twisted ankle or knee, a wrenched shoulder - means a trip to the doctor's office (if not the ER), followed by several weeks of physical therapy.
Physical therapy - (physiotherapy (PT)) - is defined as a health care profession that re-mediates impairments and promotes mobility, function, and quality of life through examination, diagnosis, and physical intervention (therapy using mechanical force and movement). It is carried out by physical therapists (known as physiotherapists in most countries) and physical therapist assistants (known as physical rehabilitation therapists or physiotherapy assistants in some countries). In addition to clinical practice, other activities encompassed in the physical therapy profession include research, education, consultation, and administration. In many settings, physical therapy services may be provided alongside, or in conjunction with, other medical or rehabilitation services, including occupational therapy.
"After PT, most people figure they're good to go - so they go," says Ashley Jacob, a Certified Personal Trainer, Medical Exercise Specialist and Post-Rehab Conditioning Specialist at Armonk Physical Therapy and Sports Training. That typically means going right back to the pre-injury routine at the gym or the running track, with only a vague idea of how to regain lost fitness and avoid another injury in the future.
Unfortunately, this strategy might also be sending the patient right back to the doctor (and physical therapist), Jacob says, because it's missing two critical elements: a genuine understanding of how to further repair - and avoid repeating - the injury and the physical conditioning necessary to completely heal the damage and restore function in the injured area. But working with a qualified post-rehab personal trainer means working out (and returning to pre-injury fitness levels) with the assistance and oversight of an exercise and fitness professional.
A targeted approach
For any patient, regardless of age or athletic prowess, returning from an injury is a lengthy process, Jacob says. Even the best medical treatment and PT regimen usually leaves the patient with residual functional deficits that require targeted strength and conditioning work, she explains. "Effective rehabilitation really needs a graduated exercise program that's specifically designed to return the injured body part to its normal and healthy function," she says. "And that's something that needs to continue long after the doctor's appointments and PT sessions are over."
A qualified personal trainer can design a post-rehab exercise program that closely follows the physician's or physical therapist's advice, she explains. (No matter how closely a patient listens to the doctor or therapist, a non-medical person is bound to miss or misunderstand or simply forget something, she says.) But equally important, she says, certified post-rehab specialists are also trained to apply the doctor's (or physical therapist's) directives to the individual client, taking into account the many variables - age, athletic conditioning, lifestyle, etc. - that make each client unique.
"Certified post-rehab specialists are specifically trained to work with clients who have injuries or other conditions that require special consideration," she says. For example, they can help clients to "train around" an injury, by substituting activities that won't put undue strain on damaged tissues.
Specifically, today's post-rehab specialists focus on a few things, Jacob says:
Ashley Jacob is a certified personal trainer with the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America, a Certified Medical Exercise Specialist and Certified Post-Rehab Conditioning Specialist with the American Academy of Health, Fitness, and Rehab Professionals, and Certified to Provide Dietary Guidance for her clients with the Cooper Institute. www.armonkptst.com
Armonk Physical Therapy and Sports Training provides personalized, integrative, and skilled one-on-one physical therapy services. www.armonkptst.com