Physiotherapists are often the professional you seek after an injury has occurred or after a nagging pain has become too much to shrug off. From this perspective, physiotherapy is a reactive measure to taking care of one’s physical well-being. Although this is an important role that physiotherapists play within a person’s rehabilitation and recovery, preventative physiotherapy, the component of preventative care, often goes missing.
Compelling evidence suggests that physiotherapy interventions demonstrate the ability to prevent future injuries from occurring¹. In other words, we could take better care of our physical well-being by avoiding injury altogether.
A systematic review of workplace interventions to prevent low back pain conducted by the University of Sydney’s Christopher G. Mayer has shown that physiotherapy interventions applied to people who work in manual labour settings (e.g., lifting, bending, carrying items) decrease the likelihood of having a back-related injury during their employment. In addition, if the person were to suffer from a back injury, the level of severity is often less and recovery times are shorter.
Specifically, sick-leave, time-off work, and unpaid leave were all reduced when physiotherapy intervention groups were compared to no-intervention groups. As Benjamin Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Preventative physiotherapy interventions consisted of core and low back endurance exercises, specific calisthenics, client-specific consultations, education on back pain, and behavioural therapy. From an equipment perspective, lumbar supports and lumbar belts have been shown to be ineffective in providing significant differences in injury prevention when compared to those who did not use lumbar supports.
Many of us work at an office setting with an abundance of screen-time (e.g. computer, tablet, smartphone, television/display), limiting our abilities to move around. This type of confinement can lead to learned-dysfunctional posture and pain or soreness at the end of a long day.
The same study also showed that physiotherapy interventions, including postural correction exercises, biofeedback to specific musculature, manual therapy (e.g., soft tissue massage, cross friction massage), help to prevent strain and injury to neck and shoulder muscles.
Physiotherapy-related warm-up routines and exercises have also been shown to reduce the likelihood of athletics and sports injury occurrence and time-off from injuries after they have occurred².
A systematic review by Noel Barengo (2014) from the Center of Studies in Physical Activity Measurements, School of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Rosario, Bogotá (District of Columbia), shows that the proper application and follow-through of an appropriate warm-up routine can significantly decrease the likelihood of injuries to both male and female athletes.
In this specific study, the FIFA 11+ protocol was reviewed and it was determined that football teams (read: soccer) who engaged in the physiotherapy-specific warm-up routine outlined in the FIFA 11+ protocol had 30% to 70% fewer injured players, when compared to the control groups.
It is clear that physiotherapy applied in a preventative manner is an efficacious use of interventions. Physiotherapy assessment and treatment tools for people who work in a manual labour setting or an office environment, and those involved in athletic activities can decrease the likelihood for future injury occurrence and prevent the possibility of future physical dysfunction. In addition, physiotherapy-related warm-up strategies and exercises have been shown to effectively decrease the number of injuries experienced.
¹Maher, C. (2000). A systematic review of workplace interventions to prevent low back pain. Australian Journal of Physiotherapy, 46: 259-269
²Barengo, Noel C. (2014). The Impact of the FIFA 11+ Training Program on Injury Prevention in Football Players: A Systematic Review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 11: 11986-12000