Warming Up for Rock Climbers

warm up rock climber rock climbing warm up

Warming up prior to activity is important for everyone, climbers especially. A good warm up prepares the body by increasing blood flow to active muscles, increasing circulation, increasing body temperature and improving joint mobility. Getting your body moving prior to activity can reduce the risk of injury and decrease the likelihood of soreness afterward. It can also serve to help your body perform at its maximum potential so it’s important to make sure you’re warming up properly and safely. Here are a few key points to keep in mind before your next climb.


A major part of warming up is stretching, which can be broken down into two different types:

• Static Stretching is when you hold a body position for a predetermined period of time (typically 10-30 seconds). A good example of this is sitting and grasping your toes or throwing your foot up on a chair.
Dynamic Stretching involves continuous movement through your range of motion like when you practice swinging your leg forward and backward.


Getting your blood moving should be the first goal when warming up. Prior to working out or preparing for a climb, spend 10-15 minutes walking at a moderate pace, jogging or cycling to get your heart pumping. Incorporating some light cardio will help to oxygenate your muscles and keep them working magnificently.

Loosening Up

Do this by performing dynamic exercises that incorporate as many body parts as possible. Try to devote 5-10 minutes to loosening up prior to activity. Some ideas to get loose:

• Shoulder Windmills
• Neck Rolls
• Finger Flicks
• Wrist Rolls
• Knee to Chest
• Butt Kickers
• High Knees
• Trunk Rotations

Warm Up Climbs

You’ve loosened up and your body is warm, time to climb! Remember to increase your problem or route sequentially and strategically. Whether you’re bouldering or sport climbing, practice beginning your first few climbs 2-4 grades lower than your usual routes. If you can comfortably climb V3s for example, warm up with V0-V2s and work your way up. If you are a 5.11 sport climber, consider starting out with a couple of laps on 5.9/5.10. Not only is it beneficial to ease into your climbs but spectators will be WOWed by how effortlessly you zoom through them! 🙂 Utilize your first couple of routes to help you wake up your stabilizer muscles. Incorporate some rest into your warm up climbs to avoid pumping out early, you want to make sure you get to all of your projects for the day!


Remember to balance activity with rest. Occasionally you may hear someone say that they’re “pumped,” this usually indicates feelings of tightness, swelling, burning or pain due to lactic acid buildup (the PT brain never shuts off!). This usually occurs when a climber performs too many moves in a row. Like with any physical activity, there needs to be time for your muscles to recover from fatigue. All that said, find a good balance between incorporating rest into your warm up and not waiting too long—you don’t want to let yourself cool down completely.

Most importantly, listen to your body, pace yourself and rest appropriately so you can maximize your climbing time!

We hope these warm up tips and tricks will be helpful to you during your next climbing session. Keep an eye for more climbing-related physical therapy information on Therapydia. Until next time, rock on!

Get to Know Your PT: Kurt Gilbertson, Therapydia Lake Oswego Physical Therapist


Therapydia Lake Oswego physical therapist Kurt Gilbertson takes some time to talk about changing the perception of the recovery process, the power of instrumental music and his love of soccer.

“The under-appreciated side of wellness is the mental. Wellness needs to be fun and enjoyable because it is lifelong, and no person has enough motivation to constantly do something they don’t enjoy.”

When did you know that you wanted to be a physical therapist?

I was a 3-sport athlete in high school, most interested in soccer. My sophomore year, I had a serious injury and found physical therapy. I returned to soccer my junior year, had the same injury and lost all college recruiting. I thought to myself “I was diligent with PT, why did this happen again?” It was then that I found my passion of changing the norm of returning to sport/life training within PT to make sure my journey as a patient is not experienced by my own patients.

What is the biggest challenge involved in being a PT?

I think the main challenge within PT is that we live in a world of instant gratification but the PT world is forced to live in delayed gratification. In the sense that Amazon can deliver a TV to your doorstep in 2 days (sometimes same day!) and you’re watching the Timbers that day, but it takes 4-6 weeks for injuries to heal, and then longer to return to your sport/activity of choice! You can’t change how the body heals but you can change the perception of that recovery process, which makes PT such a rewarding job.

How do you like to stay active?

I am quietly very competitive, so my activity tends to revolve around sports (I am actively seeking pick-up soccer/baseball/basketball/football/ultimate games!) However, I have picked up yoga which I love doing with my wife, Lindsay. We walk our pup Bennett twice daily and we are excited to explore the beautiful hiking in the PNW. And soon enough, I’ll get back into the gym.

What’s your favorite song to get you motivated?

I am always influenced by emotional instrumentals, similar to those in movies. “The Mighty Rio Grande” by This Will Destroy You always kicks me into gear.

What surprised you the most about the physical therapy profession?

How unknown we are to most people. The amount of times I’ve heard, “I wish I found you years ago,” breaks my heart.

Are you currently pursuing any further education/certifications?

I just sat for the Orthopedic Specialist (OCS) Exam in March 2018. I am scheduled to sit for the CSCS exam this Summer. I am fascinated by the developmental work of Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization (DNS), the role of breathing in Postural Restoration (PRI), and the role of connective tissue chains in Structural Integration (ATSI) of which I plan to take some courses of each this coming year.

What do you wish everyone knew about PT?

That PT is a process and that process does not end when pain is no longer there. Pain is a gift that alerts you when something is wrong, but just because you turn off the alarm doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still take care of the reason why it went off. I’d also like to add that PT is more than stretching. I like to say, stretching gets you out of pain, strengthening keeps the pain away.

What’s your go-to breakfast?

You can’t go wrong with eggs, bacon and hash browns!

What is the most important personality trait that a PT must have?

Empathy, active listening, and expert questioning. You said three traits right? 🙂 But really, we collaborate with genuine people who more often than not have suffered for years, seen way too many doctors and know more about medicine than they ever should. It requires empathetic compassion to connect, the ability to hear the subtle cues of motivational factors to understand, and the ability to have laser questioning to find the root issue. “A smart person gives smart answers, a genius asks great questions.”

What do you do to de-stress and unwind?

Playing and watching soccer, walking with Lindsay and Bennett, building furniture and listening to music are typical de-stressors for me.

Finish this sentence: On Saturday mornings, you can usually find me…”

Half asleep at 4:30am watching Liverpool games and then sitting with Lindsay on the porch drinking coffee.

What is the best piece of wellness advice you’ve ever received?

The under-appreciated side of wellness is the mental. Wellness needs to be fun and enjoyable because it is lifelong, and no person has enough motivation to constantly do something they don’t enjoy. Exercise, prayer, reading, writing, cooking are all forms of wellness if it improves your perspective on life.

Learn more about Kurt and the other PTs at Therapydia Lake Oswego here

3 Simple Exercises to Improve Your Posture


Proper posture means that you’re using the most efficient amount of energy to keep your joints aligned. When aligned, your heels, knees, pelvis and neck are all stacked on top of each other and your body moves much more effectively, reducing the probability of injury. Poor posture can lead to issues like TMD, neck pain, headaches and even shoulder pain. Remember every time your mom told you to “stand up straight”? She had a good reason for doing so. Poor posture in any position, even when lying down, takes its toll on the body.

Give yourself a posture check with these exercises to ensure that your poor posture isn’t negatively affecting your body’s function in the long-term.

Bilateral Shoulder External Rotation


• Start by wrapping a resistance band around your hands.
• Position your arms at your sides with your elbows bent 90 degrees and your hands about shoulder width apart.
• Pull the resistance band apart by squeezing your shoulder blades together and rotating your shoulders.
• Pull apart as far as you can, keeping the 90 degree bend in the elbow and pain-free.
• Keep good neck posture with the back of your neck long and your chin dropped slightly (not poking forward).
• Hold for 5-10 seconds and repeat 10 times for 1-2 sets.

Wall Field Goal Post


• Positioned against a wall in a mini squat position, or seated with good posture, start with your hands together in front.
• Raise your hands up over your head and keep them together and then out into a position like a football field goal post.
• As you move your hands out, feel the stretch in the front of your chest and squeeze the shoulder blades down and back.
• Try not to arch your upper back and keep a good neck posture (chin slightly dropped, back of your neck long).
• Hold for 10-30 seconds in the field goal position.

Seated Head Nod-Chin Drop


• Find a good sitting or standing position: If sitting, put your weight on your sit bones or just in front with your ribs stacked over your pelvis, roll your shoulders up and then down back, “setting” them.
• Drop your chin slightly while making the back of the neck long (imagine a string pulling up from the crown of your head). This is a small gentle motion (not forceful).

If you have any questions or any pain with these exercises, please consult a Therapydia physical therapist. We can tailor an exercise program based on your unique body and individual goals.

Is Your Shoulder Mobility Limiting Your Climbing?


An activity like rock climbing is a great way to shake up your normal exercise routine, not to mention it’s a thrilling and affordable full-body workout that can improve your overall strength, coordination and endurance. Whether you’re a seasoned climber or brand new to the sport, climbing is an intense and dynamic activity that requires proper shoulder mobility for maximum efficiency. The movements involved in rock climbing place a great deal of stress on the shoulders, among other areas, and can frequently cause overuse injuries and muscle imbalances if the surrounding muscles are not strong enough. These issues may result in limited range of motion, stiffness and pain around the upper extremities. As physical therapists, we work to educate our patients on how they can decrease their risk of injury while also improving efficiency. So what exactly do we mean when we say “shoulder mobility”?

The three main components for shoulder mobility include:

• The Glenohumeral Joint (ball-in-socket shoulder joint)
• The Scapula (shoulder blade)
• The Thoracic spine (upper back)


The Glenohumeral Joint

The glenohumeral joint (GHJ) is a ball-in-socket that allows your shoulder to move in all directions. If you’re a frequent climber, the muscles on the front of your body may become tight, pulling your shoulders forward and rotating them inward. As a result, the muscles on your back and your shoulder blades become weakened. It’s important to make sure that you have a good balance between muscle strengthening and stretching to improve your shoulder mobility.

The Scapula

When you raise your arm overhead, your shoulder blade—aka the scapula—should rotate upwards in relation to the shoulder joint. This movement is important for full shoulder range of motion. Muscles that assist with upward rotation are Serratus Anterior, Middle Trapezius and Lower Trapezius. If these muscles are weak and have difficulty coordinating together, your shoulder joint and shoulder blades can’t work together effectively.


The Thoracic Spine

Your upper back has a natural curve, but the rounding is often accentuated with poor posture due to the movements involved in climbing pulling muscles and joints forward. Obviously this hunched position is not ideal when it comes to posture and can unfortunately lead to muscle imbalances due to decreased thoracic extension. Thoracic mobility into extension is a key component for shoulder elevation.

So, what now?

To improve your climbing efficiency and to ensure that you’re not putting yourself at risk for injury, talk to a physical therapist today. They’ll address your strengths and limitations while providing hands-on treatment to improve glenohumeral, thoracic and scapular mobility, along with any other trouble areas. There are a lot of exercises out there that can help to improve your performance and ensure that you’re not at risk of injury; your PT can design a custom exercise program unique to you.

Get to Know Your PT: Tony D’Ovidio, Therapydia Portland Physical Therapist


Therapydia Portland Physical Therapist Tony D’Ovidio takes some time to talk about intermittent fasting, the importance of empathy, and how an interest in sports and fitness led to a career in PT.

“We have to be realistic with where we are fitness-wise, find our limiters, and keep working them to reach our goals.”

When did you know that you wanted to be a physical therapist?

After undergrad, I hated my job as a research assistant and my Dad was in a pretty severe motorcycle accident. I moved back home to help him and started taking him to physical therapy which seemed like much more fun than what I was doing. I had always been into sports and fitness so it was a pretty natural move.

What is the biggest challenge involved in being a PT?

Turning it off when the day is done. Especially being in fellowship and just being interested in strength training, it’s hard to step out of that world and stop thinking about it sometimes. Having other interests that are equally as strong help.

How do you like to stay active?

It changes every few months since I like to experiment. Currently it’s basic barbell strength, cycling, and some flexibility training to prepare for higher level body weight training.

What’s your favorite song to get you motivated?

“Sabotage” by the Beastie Boys.

What surprised you the most about the physical therapy profession?

How much variety and variability there can be. I love my setting working with people with orthopedic injuries, but PTs can work in tons of different settings and with tons of different patients that I didn’t know about until getting involved in the profession.

Are you currently pursuing any further education or certifications?

Too many. I’m currently in a fellowship program in manual therapy and I have my orthopedic clinical specialist exam coming up soon, too. I’m also just naturally curious, so I end up reading a ton about exercise, nutrition, and a billion other topics.

What do you wish everyone knew about physical therapy?

How much knowledge and training we have. I think there’s still a perception among some out there that we apply modalities and massage people all day. At our best, I see us as consultants for musculoskeletal health who can guide patients through life, training, or whatever else to reach their goals. Our brains are more important than our hands.

What’s your go-to breakfast?

Black coffee. I practice intermittent fasting so the only breakfast I have is an occasional meal on the weekends.

What is the most important personality trait that a PT must have?

Empathy. It’s a challenge to connect with everyone you meet, but stepping into their shoes and seeing what’s important to them, and trying to think like they think and feel like they feel is what allows us to connect and provide the best possible care.

What do you do to de-stress/unwind?

Cooking/baking or getting out into nature. I also meditate regularly.

Finish this sentence: On Saturday mornings, you can usually find me…

Sipping coffee and reading comic books.

What is your favorite piece of wellness advice?

“You’ve got to start where you are.” – Dan Jon

We all want to be superstars, but most of us aren’t. We have to be realistic with where we are fitness-wise, find our limiters, and keep working them to reach our goals.

Click here to learn more about Tony and the other physical therapists at Therapydia Portland.

Our Favorite Equipment for Physical Therapy

physical therapy equipment rehab tools portland

Around our clinics, we have a fair amount of equipment that we incorporate into our physical therapy treatment programs for a variety of conditions. Here are just a few of our favorites!

physical therapy equipment rehab tools keiser functional trainer portland

Keiser Functional Trainer

Besides looking super sleek and taking up almost no floor space in the clinic, we love the Keiser Functional Trainer for its extreme versatility. It also uses pneumatic resistance, so the muscles remain active through the entire movement with minimal shock to the joints. In some ways, the Keiser is a standard cable machine but it also allows you to do things that other cable machines can’t. One example is both testing and training for power output. Let us explain: When you do a repetition on the Keiser, it gives you a reading in Watts that indicates the rate at which your work was done (essentially the speed of your movements). This can be very valuable, especially for athletes who perform a lot of rotational movements such as golf and softball/baseball.

We can measure power one side at a time, making the Keiser a great tool for injury prevention. We all know the importance of symmetry; well, this technology allows us to test rotation to the right/left and locate deficits on either side, giving you the information you need to know what to train for. It’s also effective for the lower body. If you’re a basketball player and you want to be able to jump off of both legs, we can test each of your legs one at a time to find out if they produce the same amount of power.

We use the Keiser in all phases of rehab. For those who are still in pain, the Keiser allows for super light resistance. For those who are in the “return to sport” phase, we can receive objective numbers in order to clear you back to your sport.


InBody Body Composition Analyzer

If a patient has goals of weight loss or strength training, the InBody machine is great for them. This machine can give you some really cool data to help you structure that goal.

The InBody Body Composition Analyzer provides your basal metabolic rate (the number of calories that you burn at rest), which is important to know before you work out. This will help you know how much you need to eat in relation to how much you need to burn. Rehab-wise, the limb segmental breakdown (right arm vs. left arm, right leg vs. left leg) is extremely helpful. If you have an injured leg, especially if it’s chronic, then there’s likely going to be some changes there in terms of your muscle mass. The InBody provides objective data that you can use to measure over time to make sure that we’re focusing on the right elements during your rehab and making things challenging enough to gain back muscle.

Even cooler, this is all done through electrical current (there are two sensors in each hand and two sensors in each foot). As you stand on what feels like a normal scale, the current goes through your body to determine what’s muscle, what’s fat and what’s bone, in just a couple of minutes.

Read more about the InBody Body Composition Analyzer

trx physical therapy tools rehab equipment portland


Another one of the most versatile pieces of equipment that we have, and one that may look especially familiar, is the TRX. Used for suspension training (all bodyweight training), it’s incredibly safe for all phases of rehab and for people of any age group. The TRX allows you to make things really simple or really challenging, depending on your personal condition and needs. You can target your upper body—great for those with shoulder issues who need to focus on shoulder blade strengthening—or lower body—someone with knee pain for example will be able to do a lot of assisted types of squats and can use the TRX as a helpful tool to progress from two legs to one. It’s also great for core work.

What else do we love? It’s portable and really quite simple: This amazing tool isn’t much more than a couple of ropes!

physical therapy equipment rehab tools portland

AeroPilates Reformer

In addition to being used for Pilates workouts, the reformer is something that we use on a daily basis with our patients. It’s low-impact and easy to adjust the intensity to match your condition (it has the ability to go from 25 to 75 pounds of resistance). You can perform upper body, lower body and core work. We probably use this most for helping patients get the leg strength that they need to squat. For those who can’t stand up to do a squat without pain, the reformer comes in handy to help them do a sort-of modified leg press. It’s a super effective tool used to progress patients to more functional, weight-bearing exercises.

Pelvic Health Myths


Pelvic pain and pelvic floor dysfunction affects millions of people, however, the majority of these cases go untreated. Whether people just don’t know that pelvic pain isn’t something they should have to live with, they’re uncomfortable discussing it or they’re not sure where to seek out help, it’s our mission at Therapydia to shine a light on the fact that solutions to these problems DO exist. In treating patients, we come across a lot of misconceptions surrounding the musculoskeletal problems of the pelvic region. While we’re only scratching the surface of the topic here, it’s time for some of these myths to be debunked!

Myth: Pelvic floor issues only occur in women.
Truth: Believe it or not, men can have pelvic floor issues as well. Other than the obvious anatomical differences between men and women, most of the muscles of the pelvic floor are the same. Treatment is much different but a lot of men suffer from pelvic pain, pain with intercourse and many of the same symptoms as women.

Myth: Only women who have given birth suffer from pelvic floor issues.
Truth: You don’t have to have had a child to experience symptoms like leaking, diastasis recti, and other issues associated with pelvic health. Other causes of pelvic pain can stem from exercising improperly or trauma. Even something as seemingly unrelated as experiencing a hard fall on your tailbone can result in a misalignment of the bones in the pelvis and can completely alter how the pelvic floor muscles function.

Myth: It’s normal to have leaking and pelvic pain after childbirth.
Truth: It may be common but it’s certainly not normal. It’s important to know that something can be done about these pelvic floor issues and it doesn’t have to be your “new normal”. Women’s health physical therapy can help.

Myth: Constipation is only a result of the foods that we eat.
Truth: Much of the time, constipation is a pelvic floor problem. The symptoms can be a result of a neuromuscular issue in which your muscles are not able to fully relax and allow you to have a bowel movement. Read our blog on Toilet Ergonomics for more on this issue and to learn about the transformative powers of the Squatty Potty.

To learn more, visit our Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy page.

5 Ways to Challenge Your Single Leg Stance and Improve Your Balance

Improve balance portland physical therapy

The ability to maintain our balance is linked to multiple processes in our body including muscles and joints, vision, and our inner ear. As we get older, there are changes in all of these systems that result in a loss of steadiness and an increased risk of falling. Fortunately, falling is not inevitable and with training, our balance can improve! Training your balance now is also effective in improving your athletic performance by making better use of the strength that you already have.

Whether from a physical therapist, a personal trainer, or part of the warm up routine of your sports team, balance is very often overlooked in any training program. Maybe it sounds a bit dull but there are ways you can make it fun! Balance training can so easily be incorporated into your exercise routine and the results can help to preserve your ability to balance as you get older, warding off injuries and keeping your body strong.

Gauge your own balance with the single leg stance. Stand next to something sturdy, like a chair or table, and raise one leg off of the floor with your hips bent to 45 degrees and your knee to 90 degrees. Begin by trying to balance for 5-10 seconds and then work your way up. To challenge yourself even more, try these single leg stance modifications:

Relax Your Toes

Most people, when they stand on one foot, automatically tend to “grip the floor for dear life” with their toes as a way of searching for any type of stability. Relaxing the toes increases the surface area of your foot and allows some of those deep intrinsic foot muscles that are just in the arch of our foot, to activate.

Practice Balancing Barefoot

Taking the shoes and socks off allows you to receive sensory feedback from the floor, letting your natural foot do what it wants on the floor. You’re also not forced into the position of your shoes (aka foot coffins). Runners who need to have really strong foot muscles will do a lot of training while barefoot. This gives these muscles a better chance of activating without that stability.

Look Up!

We’re so reliant on our visual system for balance and movement in general, we’ll always correct our posture so that our gaze is horizontal. When you look down at the ground, everything else follows—your neck is flexed, your shoulders are rounded, your butt may be sticking out a little bit to counter the weight—posturally you’re put in a really bad position. Looking up straightens everything out and makes it much more challenging.

Close Your Eyes

At first this may be difficult, but over time it will make you less reliant on your visual system. Closing your eyes will make your proprioceptor system work a little bit harder, helping to train and strengthen those muscles and ligaments.


Balance training doesn’t always have to be “stand on one leg and hold for as long as you can”. Practicing balance while frozen (not talking, not blinking, not moving) is not quite realistic to maintaining proper balance in everyday life. Shake things up by catching a ball while you’re balancing on one leg, having a conversation, thinking about something else, moving your arms, cooking, washing dishes, etc. Challenge your brain to focus on more than just your balance so that it becomes an automatic response.

Make balance training a part of your workout routine by practicing your single leg stance daily. You’ll notice improvements in no time!

Get to Know Your PT: Sabrina Seraj, Therapydia Portland Physical Therapist

Therapydia Portland Senior Staff Physical Therapist Sabrina Seraj takes some time to talk about her love of breakfast, how she became interested in PT, and Game Day Bass Drops on Pandora.

“Those who think they have no time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness.” – Edward Stanley

When did you know that you wanted to be a physical therapist?

I didn’t know much about physical therapy until college. I knew I loved anatomy from high school and I was going to go the route of medicine/healthcare in some form or fashion. With a little research, I found the role of a PT fit my desires and personality best: The ability to work with my hands, educate and help people feel better, be analytical and creative, and deal with anatomy all day?! Perfect!

What is the biggest challenge involved in being a PT?

Sometimes the energy of the work day stays with me as I go home; when working closely with a lot of people in pain, the pain can start to seep in.

How do you like to stay active?

I have always been an active girl but not in one particular discipline. I prefer to change it up but always do some yoga and Pilates. I love to hike and explore too.

What’s your favorite song to get you motivated?

“Eye of the Tiger,” because if it motivates Rocky…..(kidding). This is a hard question because it depends on what I’m doing but when I require motivation to start my exercise regimen, I am pumping Game Day Bass Drops on Pandora. Seriously.

What surprised you the most about the physical therapist profession?

The ins and outs of insurance ….

Are you currently pursuing any further education/certifications?

I am always looking to push my skill level and knowledge and am progressing through a series of classes through NAIOMT (North American Institute of Orthopedic Manual Therapy) for a specialized certification in advanced clinical skills, among other plans.

What do you wish everyone knew about physical therapy?

PT is physical. It requires the physical effort and commitment of the patient. I wish I had a magic wand I could wave over patients and cure them, but alas, we physical therapists are only catalysts for bodily change and the patient has to be committed to making that change to reap the full benefits!

What’s your go-to breakfast?

Oh man! Breakfast is my favorite meal!! Eggs, all ways… and always.

What is the most important personality trait that a PT must have?


What do you do to de-stress/unwind?

Dance or yoga. I like to move.

Finish this sentence: On Saturday mornings, you can usually find me…

Excited to wake up and make breakfast and eat it! (Did I mention I love breakfast?)

What is your favorite piece of wellness advice?

I have 2 quotes that come to mind:

“Those who think they have no time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness.” – Edward Stanley

“Everything in moderation… including moderation.” – Oscar Wilde

Click here to learn more about Sabrina and the other physical therapists at Therapydia Portland.

10 Misconceptions about Physical Therapy

Misconception #1: All physical therapists are the same

Physical therapists all come from different backgrounds including training, continued education, and personal experiences. These varying characteristics can lead to different philosophies of treatment. Although PTs graduate with similar fundamental knowledge and “tools”, the education and career path each PT takes after their schooling may add more tools and will dictate what tools they use and when. While all PTs should have the same goal—getting you back to a pain-free lifestyle as soon as possible—not all PTs are created equal.

One negative experience with physical therapy doesn’t mean that you should write off the potentially life-changing care of a PT entirely.

But how do you go about finding a physical therapist who is right for you?

When seeking out a PT, it’s important to shop around and find one that you like. Where to start? Search different terms online to narrow down what you’re looking for (ex: knee pain specialist, back pain, etc.). Ask friends and family for recommendations or go to your doctor for a referral. Additionally, try cold-calling clinics and asking questions like “Do you offer one-on-one treatments?” and “How long will my sessions be?” Gather as much information as you can to find the right match for your condition. Try to find someone that you “jive” with personally as you’ll be spending some quality time together.

During your course of treatment ask yourself, “Does my PT understand my goals?” You should feel like you’re working towards those goals during each session. Finding a PT that you connect with and relate to could actually lead to a situation where you look forward to coming in for treatment!

Misconception #2: Physical therapy is going to hurt

That old adage of “no pain, no gain” is FALSE. Somewhere along the way, physical therapy picked up a reputation that treatment hurts, or that it’s supposed to hurt. Some patients even delay coming in to PT because they think they should wait until their pain subsides so they don’t make anything worse. Why wait when they can help you now?! If you’re in pain, there is rarely a reason to wait to come to PT.

Research shows that the sooner you begin treatment, the better chance you’ll have of recovering quickly and efficiently (saving you and the healthcare system time and money).

As long as you can get to the clinic safely, even if someone else has to drive you, PTs can likely do something to make you feel better. Lastly, your PT should rarely do anything that makes your pain worse and if they do, perhaps they’re not the right fit for you. Know that your treatment may be a little uncomfortable at times depending on what you’re being seen for, but a good PT is going to be constantly checking in with you to gauge your comfort level throughout treatment. If something is bothering you, they’re going to adjust the plan of care accordingly.

you have to see a doctor before a physical therapist

Misconception #3: You have to see a doctor before you can go to a PT

This mindset dates back decades to when people began seeing their primary care doctor as “the gatekeeper” to all other healthcare professionals.

Truthfully, if you’re in pain or you have a musculoskeletal issue, a PT can likely help and you can save time and money by going straight to them.

Think for a second about a chiropractor. An average person experiencing back pain would probably think, “I should see a chiropractor”. They likely wouldn’t go to their doctor to ask permission, they would just go see a chiropractor directly. Physical therapy is no different! Physical therapists are the experts in musculoskeletal injuries and prevention. If you have pain anywhere, you should automatically be thinking physical therapy. If for some reason your condition is out of the scope of a PT’s practice, they are well-equipped to refer you to the appropriate practitioner. A good physical therapist asks all of the right questions to rule out anything that’s not musculoskeletal.

physical therapist education misconception

Misconception #4: To be a physical therapist, I just need a certification

Surprisingly, many people are unaware that to become a physical therapist you need about seven years of schooling, not to mention a ton of hands-on, clinical experience and education that continues even after you begin practicing.

PTs nowadays receive a clinical doctorate degree; that’s what the DPT after a PTs name stands for – Doctor of Physical Therapy.

They then take a national board exam to earn a license to treat patients, yet some people still can’t tell you the difference between a physical therapist and a personal trainer. By the way, personal trainers are awesome! However, when you’re in pain, your rehab becomes out of their scope of practice.

physical therapists fix people misconception

Misconception #5: Physical therapists “fix” people

A physical therapist’s job is to enable you and be active in your recovery but there is no “cure-all” button that they push to get rid of all your pain instantly. Physical therapy is a team effort. In other words, it is unlikely that you will get positive and lasting results from having all of your treatment done TO you (passive approach). As a patient, you should go in expecting to do a little bit of work.

A great PT will not fix you; they will help you learn how to fix yourself.

This may seem daunting at first but it’s actually quite encouraging as YOU are the one in control of your recovery. Your PT is there to guide you and provide some hands-on treatment early on while also teaching you the tools necessary to move and function long-term and on your own. As great as it is to see your PT regularly each week, you don’t want to do that for the rest of your life!

The work that you put in with your PT during each session is important but what is more important is what you do when you’re not with your PT. Your posture, your daily activities, what you’re doing at work, and even how you’re sleeping ALL affect your pain. There is only so much your PT can do during the time the two of you are together each week. Your physical therapist should give you the necessary guidance to function properly so you can continue an active, pain-free lifestyle on your own.

misconceptions clamshells no matter what

Misconception #6: You’ll be given clamshells no matter what

Look, there’s a time and a place for a clamshell or any other basic theraband exercise but doing clamshells for the rest of your life is not going to get you better. Your PT should give you custom exercises based on your unique body and specific condition (this may or may not include clamshells, but don’t be deterred!).

Your exercises shouldn’t stop at a clamshell; they should simulate the demands of the activities you are hoping to return to without pain.

On that note…

physical therapy is just exercise based

Misconception #7: Physical therapy is just exercise-based

Research shows that the combination of exercise AND manual therapy AND patient education is often the most effective treatment plan for a variety of musculoskeletal injuries. Although there may be some benefit to seeing a PT once and learning safe exercises you can do on your own (versus not going at all), this is not ideal nor should one expect a full recovery with this approach.

Some people may be hesitant to start PT because they’ve been told it’s going to be strictly exercise-based, yet they’ve never exercised before.

Know that your PT is there to be your coach and they’re not going to push you beyond your limits.

Every plan of care is different and will be tailored to your unique needs. Most importantly, don’t be afraid! If you are, be honest with your PT and let them know. Chances are they’ll make you feel at ease in no time.

misconceptions PTs will tell you to stop

Misconception #8: Your PT will tell you to stop doing what you love

Your physical therapist’s number one goal is to get you back to doing what you love as soon as possible! To delay treatment and ignore your pain because you want to keep running or keep training is only going to hurt you in the long run. In many cases, the longer you hold off treatment, the longer your recovery will take. Ideally, your physical therapist will not tell you to stop participating in your favorite activities unless it is necessary for health and/of safety reasons. Instead, they can incorporate these activities into your treatment plan.

Sometimes reducing or eliminating the aggravating activities is necessary to make progress, but this may just include modifying the amount of any particular activity, not stopping it entirely.

They want to focus on what you CAN do, not what you CAN’T do.

Another reminder that the goal of your PT is for you to get back to your favorite activities, fully healthy and as soon as possible.

you have to be in pain to go to physical therapy

Misconception #9: You have to be in pain to go to physical therapy

Frequently, people only think of PT when they’re seriously injured such as after a bad car accident or while recovering from surgery. Physical therapists do a lot more than address pain after an injury. A lot of their expertise lends itself to injury prevention and improving performance. Diagnosing problems in movement and function before those issues turn into serious or debilitating conditions can save you time, money, and frustration down the road. You don’t need to be in pain to come see a PT.

Believe it or not, it’s actually quite likely that you’re moving in a way that is dysfunctional – putting you at risk for future injury – even if you have no pain at all!

Addressing the issue now can pay off in the future.

once you're discharged you're done

Misconception #10: Once you’re discharged, you’re done

This misconception goes back to one we’ve already discussed: Physical therapists “fix” people. Your PT should give you the tools necessary to live a pain-free life but the ball is in your court to use those tools correctly and to ensure that your daily activities are not compromising the work that you’ve already put in.

YOU are in control of your recovery and you and your PT have hopefully worked together to help you adopt new healthy habits for lifetime wellness!