According to the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), a physical therapist is a trained and licensed medical professional with experience in diagnosing physical abnormalities, restoring physical function and mobility, maintaining physical function, and promoting physical activation and proper function.

As a physical therapist, the main focus is to help patients through restorative, management, and preventative stages of recovery. We aim to give you the tools to help restore function and movement. Physical therapy encompasses a multitude of treatment techniques including those pertaining to pain treatment.

Physical therapists play a major role in pain management through different types of therapies and techniques used daily. Various forms of exercise including strength, flexibility, balance, endurance, power, and agility are used to promote and restore normal function, but also as pain management.

As exercise specialists, we formulate a specific therapeutic exercise regimen using our extensive knowledge of pathology, kinesiology, and biomechanics. This can be applied to all common injuries and dysfunctions including post-surgical rehabilitation of knees, hips, shoulders, strokes, spine injuries, and work or sports related injuries.

Whereas, opioids only mask the sensation of pain, physical therapists can also treat pain through hands-on care. Techniques used include manipulation, joint and soft tissue mobilizations, dry needling, cupping, and others. This assists in on not only addressing the pain but focusing on the root of the issue.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued opioid prescription guidelines in March 2016 which recommends physical therapy as an alternative to prescribed opioids.

Before accepting prescription pain medication, it would be the best course of action to take a few minutes to talk with your doctor or qualified medical professional in order to ensure you are the making the right choice for your health and well-being. Early use of physical therapy holds the promise of reducing opioid use among patients with musculoskeletal pain.

Foothills Sports Medicine Physical Therapy has locations across the valley, contact the one nearest you to get your FREE pain assessment.

Plantar fasciitis, a musculoskeletal pathology of the foot, is one of the most commonly treated causes of heel pain, occurring in 10% of the population over their lifetime. The plantar fascia is a thick band of tissue connecting the heel to the ball of the foot, providing support for the arch. Plantar fasciitis is the inflammation of this band. Common symptoms include pain at the heel and along the arch or at the ball of the foot when weight is placed on it, specifically after long periods of rest.

You may also notice symptoms after prolonged periods of standing, when walking barefoot, or in shoes with poor support. Symptoms tend to decrease as the body warms up, but can become aggravated towards the end of the day. Plantar fasciitis can affect both athletes and non-athletes of all ages who see a sudden increase in activity or increase in body weight.

Physical therapy professionals are trained to evaluate and treat plantar fasciitis in order to help patients return to their favorite activities, free of pain. Patients typically respond well to common rehabilitation approaches such as stretching and strengthening rather than surgery. For patients who report their most severe symptoms with the first few steps in the morning, I often prescribe stretches before they even get out of bed. Upon awakening, the patient can stretch their plantar fascia by placing the towel on the balls of the foot and using each hand on the end of the towel to passively bring the toes towards the leg into dorsiflexion.

I also encourage patients to keep a tennis or lacrosse ball at their bedside to roll on the bottom, or plantar surface, of their feet in a seated position for three minutes. A decrease in calf flexibility is commonly seen in plantar fasciitis due to the gastrocnemius muscle attachment at the heel, so I recommend patients perform a gastrocnemius stretch before taking their first few steps, and throughout the day, focusing on holding the stretch as long as one minute.

Alternative therapies, like trigger point dry needling done in physical therapy, are effective in treating muscular tension and spasms and can help patients find relief from their plantar fasciitis. A therapist will insert a small, solid filament needle into the center of the muscle at the site of the knot, or the myofascial trigger points, to create a local twitch response.

Needling is helpful in decreasing muscle contraction, chemical irritation, and improving flexibility. This can be performed on the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles often responsible for the decrease in calf flexibility. It also can be used by physical therapists to treat neck pain, shoulder pain, knee pain, posterior thigh pain, and low back pain. A combination of trigger point dry needling, stretching, and strengthening produces the most profound treatment of plantar fasciitis.

Plantar fasciitis is caused by more than just inflammation in the foot. As a physical therapist, my main focus is finding the root of my patients’ dysfunction. Tissue restrictions or muscle imbalances can develop in parts of the foot, legs, and hips. These dysfunctions compromise the entire body due to the soft tissue’s inability to move freely. All of the body’s processes need to be addressed in order to fully recover from plantar fasciitis.

If you have questions about plantar fasciitis treatments or would like to speak with a physical therapy expert, please contact your local Foothills Sports Medicine Physical Therapy clinic.

With any injury, understanding which activities patients want to return to is a critical component of the rehabilitation process. For physical therapy to be successful, PTs have to be aware of what the patient needs to be capable of performing. In the therapy world, many hold negative beliefs about CrossFit and the potential harm it could cause to patients. However, I believe this is due to the amount of misinformation and bias out there in regards to CrossFit. As with any other athletic endeavor, there is a risk of injury associated with high-intensity workouts. My experiences as an active CrossFit athlete over the past year have been extremely beneficial for my work as a therapist, and it has helped me gain a better understanding of the countless athletes who seek treatment for their CrossFit or weightlifting injuries.

My goal as a physical therapist is to give my patients tools to promote longevity in their sports and other recreational activities, even if they are not able to return to every aspect of the sport. Treatment often involves addressing issues throughout the body, screening for risk of injury, and educating my patients about the body and proper form during exercise. Therapists use our extensive knowledge of human movement to figure out why a patient got injured in the first place, then correct it. This requires having a good idea of the movements our patients will be doing in the gym, and what a safe technique looks like for each different movement.

CrossFit is typically filled with high intensity, difficult exercises that require many technical movements. It is aimed at developing cardio endurance, muscular strength, and flexibility through a variety of workouts. CrossFit requires a full range of motion in every exercise, so if you feel pain in one area during a specific movement, its source might be somewhere else in the kinetic chain. For example, if a CrossFit athlete experiences shoulder pain during snatching, it could be due to lack of ankle mobility, hip or core stability, scapular stability, or thoracic extension – all of which are essential for basic CrossFit exercises. Rather than simply continuing through the pain with the same form, it is important for an athlete to stop what they are doing and see a physical therapist, who can teach them correct movement patterns.

Due to its increase in popularity over the past few years, physical therapists are going to see CrossFit injuries more often, simply because more people are engaging in CrossFit. Therapists can help patients learn how to modify the program at their gym safely and, most importantly, how to gradually get back to their normal routine after an injury. This involves a gentle progression of exercises before allowing a patient to return to their own gym, including actually putting patients through a CrossFit workout in a clinical setting. As a physical therapist who understands CrossFit, I am committed to helping guide your recovery from injury, minimize your risk for injury, and help you reach your goals. To me, your body is a priority.