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.