This is a commonly asked question which to be honest, is akin to asking if you can do dental work on your own. Still, with thousands of YouTube videos purporting to offer an alternative to professional physiotherapy the query needs to be tackled head on. While you can absolutely perform physical therapy supported exercises, stretches, and movements at home, it must only be a done as continuance of in-clinic work. Any attempt to start and complete physiotherapy without first working with a dedicated and highly trained team of multidisciplinary healthcare professionals can lead you down a dangerous road. Here’s why.
4 Bad Things That Commonly Happen When People Attempt DIY Physiotherapy
This is where the path to ineffective DIY therapy and future injury begins. You have not received years of dedicated training in injury assessment and diagnosis. Only a professional physical therapist can provide a comprehensive assessment of injury severity, range of motion, gait, balance, and ability to perform basic day to day functions much less intense work or physical activity. It is only with this highly educated assessment (complete with ultrasound) and diagnosis that an individualized program of therapeutic exercise can be designed to improve your range of motion, strength, flexibility and overall functioning.
Also consider this, it’s bad enough to incorrectly self-diagnose something like sciatica for common lower back pain, but in some cases you may diagnose an ailment as a physical injury when in fact it’s a metastatic tumor that requires immediate attention from a physician. A physiotherapist can identify the latter and refer you to the appropriate health care professional. There is simply too much to risk when you assume you that you can do it on your own from the beginning.
2. Worsen the Injury
Even if you somehow manage to correctly diagnose the injury you run a significant risk of aggravating and/or worsening it when you attempt to employ your own treatment plan. The wrong stretch, exercise, or movement can overextend already injured muscles, ligaments, tendons, and tissues and place you further from recovery. You may also attempt to do more advanced therapeutic movements or use excessive weight loads that the injured body part is not yet ready for, and once again make matters much worse. Only a professional can prescribe the regime of treatments, complete with a timeline that considers your slow but steady progress.
It’s also important to stress that you cannot even perform some key treatments and therapies on your own. For example, electrical muscle stimulation to strengthen weakened muscles cannot be effectively done on your own, nor can you apply therapeutic massage to yourself. The list of what you can’t “DIY” goes on and on, and the catalogue of additional injuries to follow in any attempt to do so correspondingly grows. Keep reading.
3. Create New Injuries
As touched on above, you not only run the risk of worsening an existing injury with DIY physiotherapy, you may also create entirely new ones. When you combine a weakened muscle, ligament, tendon, or tissues (the existing injury) with self-prescribed and self-applied exercises/movements, you will be more likely to overcompensate for the pain and malfunction in one part of your body (the injured area) by overtasking other parts of your body, including supporting and stabilizing muscles. This can directly lead to injuries that did not exist before. Your DIY attempt to save money and time by not visiting a professional will very likely result in the exact opposite. You will have no other recourse but to seek immediate help from the very professional you tried to avoid in the first place, only you’re now worse for wear than you were in the beginning.
4. Seek Alternative and Dangerous Forms of Pain Relief
This is the most concerning detriment to DIY physiotherapy and one that according to Health Canada and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is now a global health crisis – opioid addiction. When injured-persons who refuse to seek the help of a physiotherapist for pain relief hit a massive roadblock to recovery they commonly seek “assistance” over-the-counter (OTC). This is unfortunately the go-to-solution in our “take a pill for everything” culture, one that is supported heavily by the pharmaceutical industry and its large list of stakeholders. Those who have misdiagnosed their physical ailments and subsequently worsen and create new injuries in the process (everything addressed above) are more likely to turn to painkillers, which offer nothing more than short term answers while creating longterm problems that may lead to addiction and death. Nip this potential in the bud by seeking help from a professional in natural pain management instead.
Before you search YouTube for physiotherapy tips be sure (Greater Vancouver residents) to schedule a consultation with Absolute Physiotherapy in Burnaby today. We will deliver proper assessment and diagnosis, work closely with you to repair your injury, and then set you on path with an effective program that you can also do at home. Contact us today at 604.558.2273.