Why You Need a Physical Therapist
If you’re a runner, eventually you will get hurt. This isn’t a pessimistic perspective on our great sport, it’s simply an unfortunate reality of repetitive motion. If you’re a very casual runner (as in only a few miles a week), you may not experience this, but if you’re running longer distances, you can almost certainly count on dealing with injury at one time or another.
My own injury journey has been an up and down affair. Back in 2008, I had to wear a walking boot for a week because my plantar fasciitis was out of control. In 2011, I had a really weird thing going on with my hip. In 2013, it was extreme tightness in my calves, and since sometime in late 2014, my left Achilles has been causing me all sorts of grief.
I’ve tried all sorts of treatments for each of them; massage therapists, chiropractors, laser therapy, acupuncture, and physical therapy. Each treatment approach has their pros and cons. In my experience, the physical therapists I’ve worked with tend to offer a more applicable treatment for runners.
October is National Physical Therapy Month (NPTM). Recognized each October, NPTM aims to bring awareness to “the impact physical therapists and physical therapist assistants make in restoring and improving motion in people’s lives.” Since we regularly receive emails asking for help in identifying or treating some sort of running related injury, we thought we’d offer a few suggestions to help you find a great physical therapist.
When to go in for Physical Therapy
This is the most common question we get here at Minneapolis Running. “I have this pain in my [enter body part here]. Should I go see someone, or can I run through the pain?” I’m not a fan of running through pain, as it rarely goes away, but with that said, aches and pains are a common part of running long distances. Generally, there are three types of running related injuries; I’ve listed them below in order of severity.
If you have:
Dull aches and pains – All probably normal. Stretch, use a foam roller, try icing and see how you feel after your next run. You may just need more sleep.
Sharp pain and soreness that doesn’t seem to go away – This could be the start of something more serious. Take a day or two or three off, and see how it feels. If the pain doesn’t go away, and you are in the middle of an important training cycle, it won’t hurt to go see a professional.
Acute pain that limits activity – Stop running, pick up your phone, and make an appointment to see someone! This type of pain will not go away on it’s own. Even if you take a few days off, there’s probably something more severe going on and should be treated by a professional.
How to Find Someone to Treat a Running Injury
There are a couple of things you want to look for when finding someone to treat your injury. Ask those you trust (maybe someone from your local running group), and/or your primary care physician. From there, look for these three things:
First… Insurance? Does your insurance provider cover physical therapy or specific doctors or clinics? Seek them out first to avoid large medical bills. If your insurance doesn’t cover physical therapy, your next best option is to find a care provider that offers sliding scale fees. Worst case scenario: you pay full price and meet your insurance deductible before the year is up.
Second… experience? Not only do you want to find someone who is licensed, but also someone who has experience specifically treating athletes, and ideally your condition. A good way to find out if your local PT has dealt with your injury is to simply call them. Phone calls are free, and you’ll be able to learn more about your treatment options. I once talked to someone on the phone for 20 minutes before deciding they weren’t an ideal choice.
Third… look for someone who takes a more holistic approach at fixing the problem, not a quick fix. Rarely are running injuries the result of one thing. Often a combination of things contribute to different injuries, from the wrong shoes, to improper nutrition, to bad training technique.
As I mentioned, I’ve been through the process of seeking medical professionals and treatments more than a few times. It can be challenging to find the right doctor, especially when you have big running goals on the horizon. Recently, I had the opportunity to meet Dr. Kevin Spahr, a Minneapolis-based physical therapist. I was impressed by his wealth of knowledge and his experience with running related injuries.
Who is Dr. Spahr?
Dr. Spahr is a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) in Northeast Minneapolis, and owner of Pro Therapy. He has 8+ years of experience in the healthcare industry, working with all sorts of athletes. While I have not been treated by him yet, we had a great conversation, and he could be a great resource if you are unsure of what to do with your injury.
Starting in November, he’ll be writing a regular article for us where he will attempt to answer your injury related questions (submit them here!). Minneapolis Running is excited to have his medical expertise and we look forward to learning more about our own running injuries.
More about Dr. Spahr…
Dr. Spahr applies knowledge gained from an evolving healthcare industry while also valuing post-doctorate education. Dr. Spahr stays up-to-date on evidence-based research by completing continuing education courses, achieving strategic certifications and collaborating with other medical professionals.
When we chatted, I appreciate his approach. Rather than applying a formula, he works with each client individually to understand their goals and develop a personalized plan of care to tackle the source of the injury. He knows how important it is to stay active during treatment, and tries to ensure that’s an option whenever possible.
Your Running Injury
Do you have a running injury you’d like help solving? Ask us! While Dr. Spahr obviously can’t treat you via email, he can provide a bit more insight into your situation, and determine if you need to come in for treatment, of if it’s something less serious. Kevin is always available for free phone consultations.