Healthy and Active: So you've been discharged from physical therapy

Now what?

Healthy and Active: So you've been discharged from physical therapy

Healthy and Active: So you've been discharged from physical therapy

Sooner or later most of us will find ourselves in physical therapy to address some type of injury or medical condition. After a successful rehabilitation process it’s time to move on and get back to the gym, yoga studio or boot camp. Finding a personal trainer who can continue to guide you through proper exercise technique and movement is key to avoiding re-injury.

Physical therapists (PTs) are experts in the examination, diagnosis and treatment of physical impairment and functional limitations. Acting as gatekeepers, PTs often work with clients up until they are fully released from medical care. Diminishing health insurance benefits among patients have led to earlier discharges from hospitals and therapy clinics. Patients are left with additional work to be done but a lack of information and direction. Finding the right personal trainer can help bridge that gap.

Personal trainers use an individualized approach to assess, educate and train clients on their health and fitness needs. Personal trainers are experts in movement and exercise selection to improve fitness. They can help you answer many of the questions that come up when exercising after injury: How hard should I push myself? Am I pushing hard enough? Are these aches and pains a normal part of exercise or do they indicate an old injury flaring up? Trainers are not able to diagnose or treat injuries, but they can be vital to the prevention of injury while returning to exercise. A personal trainer can also reach out to their network of physical therapists to discuss symptoms that might indicate recurrence of a prior injury.

Post-injury personal training is an emerging specialty area that has seen further growth due to tightening health insurance benefits. Personal training certifications are offered by many organizations and some that stand out include the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). Certification as an Exercise Physiologist through ACSM or a Certified Special Populations Specialist through NSCA demonstrate advanced training to work with people who have medical conditions or prior injuries. Trainers who have other advanced education in this specialty area will be able to describe that experience.

There is an art and science to progressing exercise after injury. Knowing how to move through a down dog yoga pose after a shoulder injury or how deep to perform a lunge after knee tendonitis takes training and experience. Taking the time to search for a personal trainer that can navigate these issues is well worth the time and effort. Will your trainer feel comfortable talking with your PT about recent injuries? Does the trainer work with other clients who have similar conditions and fitness goals? Some rehabilitation clinics, including MoveMend in Madison Valley, have in-house exercise physiologists who start transitioning clients to fitness training while still participating therapy.

Many local personal trainers, including those at Fitness Together in Madison Park and Rachel DeBusk of Unstill Life Fitness Coaching, proactively reach out to the physical therapy community for their clients. Finding trainers who are comfortable collaborating with others through the transition from injury to post-injury activity is key.

Whether returning to a fitness routine or starting one for the first time, a personal trainer is a great guide to safely meeting health goals. When finishing a rehabilitation program, ask your physical therapist for a personal trainer recommendation. Seattle is a hub of health and fitness professionals and with some research you can find one to help you safely reach your goals, even after an injury.

Aaron Shaw is an Occupational Therapist, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and founder of MoveMend in Madison Valley. Contact him at 206-641-7733 or visit