When Physical Therapy Can Help
Move It to Improve It
This active rehab approach is backed by a host of new research. "Recent studies comparing surgery to physical therapy for the treatment of problems like knee and back pain indicate that seeing a therapist can often result in a better outcome -- with less medication and reduced cost -- than seeing a surgeon," Avruskin says.
While men still account for a higher number of athletic injuries than women, the type of exercise-related problems we get makes us ideal candidates for PT. "Women are predisposed to hurting their hips, knees, and backs, in part because of alignment issues; our hips are much wider than our lower body, and that can put excessive strain on the joints and ligaments," says Wendy Katzman, PhD, assistant clinical professor of physical therapy at the University of California, San Francisco.
Muscle strength also plays a role. One study found that female athletes suffered tears to their ACL, one of the major ligaments in the knee, at a rate up to six times higher than their male counterparts. "If the hip muscles don't have sufficient strength to stabilize the knee, injuries happen," says Pete McCall, an exercise physiologist with the American Council on Exercise.
Tabatha Thompson, 35, of Louisville, Kentucky, discovered this the hard way after persistent knee pain kept her from competing in a series of races that she'd trained for. A friend suggested she see a physical therapist. "My therapist found that my right hip was so weak that I'd been leaning on my stronger left side to compensate," Tabatha says. A routine that focused on strengthening her glutes and hips so her knee wouldn't have to do so much work allowed the joint to heal. A few months later Tabatha was back to her regular six-mile runs, but now she was pain-free.
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