One of the most common things we hear in our clinics, “I really should have come in sooner, but I thought it would just go away”.
So, when is the right amount of time to wait before seeing a physical therapist? Well, I may be biased, but I would see one sooner rather than later. Let’s shed some light on this common topic.
Many times in our lives, we’ve had a muscle pull or rolled an ankle and let it go for a few days until it resolved and we carried on with our lives. If we’re being honest, that doesn’t happen so much as we get older. We don’t just have age to blame, but we tend to get busier in work or doing things for other people and we are no longer the priority. There is less time for self healing.
So first let’s talk about type of pain. Sharper more intense pain may be worthwhile to get checked out sooner as it is usually an indicator of inflammation which can mean there’s been some damage done that you may need to work on for a bit to prevent more chronic issues building up later on in life. Radiating pain can indicate nerve irritation and is also worthwhile to get checked out so we avoid potential compression which can lead to more damage and difficulty with recovery in the future. Unrelenting pain that does not change with position (lying down or resting) is also important to get looked at to rule out any serious orthopedic or other systemic issues.
If you have the pain that is more of a dull, annoying ache or mild sharp pain that you can ignore throughout the day, you should be making sure it resolves within a few days. Letting this go on longer can feed into progressive muscle imbalance that can create a cycle of pain for you to get caught up in. Mild injuries can create big problems if not taken care of in a timely manner.
It’s also important to note that Colorado is a direct access state meaning that you can see a physical therapist without seeing your doctor first. We, in physical therapy, are also considered primary care providers. There are some insurances that require a referral for reimbursement, so be sure you check with yours first. Our office offers a self pay rate for those who would like to avoid insurance companies or that may have used their benefits up.
The long and the short of it is: Don’t wait. Stronger, more intense, or unrelenting pain should be looked at as soon as you can get in. Minor pain that is slow to resolve or plateaued (as you are approaching the end of the first week) should be evaluated. This may save you a lifetime of chronic issues or teach you how to combat flare-ups in the future. You may only need one or two sessions to set up a program you can carry on on your own.
Not many of us have time to take care of ourselves. Let us help you.