People often wonder what I do as a Graduate Sports Therapist. A lot believe I spend all day massaging pains away. That maybe I have magic hands. Sometimes my colleagues think I’m more like a personal trainer. I’m not sure what mum thinks I do though! So what do I do?
Well for a start I have 3-4 clinic days per week. During these days I work with clients on a 121 basis. This often involves a lot of asking questions and listening to answers. Also, listening for unspoken answers. My primary job at the first consult is to screen for conditions that might masquerade as muscular or skeletal pain. It’s watching out for conditions such as cancers, cardiovascular issues, systemic infections, and much more.
Once I have ruled these out, I can then start the process of carefully rehabilitating my clients. Now it’s not a simple process. No two clients are alike. No two injuries are alike. A very simple muscle strain recovery can be complicated by health issues or medications. So as a Rehabilitation Therapist I am constantly walking a tightrope, balancing out the needs of my clients’ recovery with keeping them safe.
In my clinic I do provide massages. I also mobilise joints and administer special stretch or nerve techniques, which probably surprises me more than it does everyone else! You see I’m a huge advocate of exercise therapy… but sometimes clients need a little extra help to get moving in the first place. So I carefully use these techniques to help calm their nervous system (and pain) enough that we can get them moving. But the difference is that it might only be for a few minutes that I use these techniques.
You see, Rehab Therapists (anyone working on tackling pain and / or injury) don’t have magic healing hands. We aren’t “fixing” our clients. All we are doing is modulating the experience of pain whilst we create a suitable environment that helps the client recover. The magic happens when clients are not with us. When they are doing their rehab exercises.
The rest of my time I guide my clients through exercise for rehabilitation NOT for fitness. It might seem like word play, but there is a considerable difference to the two contexts. It’s not that I am pushing them to produce one more squat. Instead I’m checking technique or finding ways to overcome their barriers to exercise, or educating ways to help the client progress independently. I think this is what I spend most of my time doing: Being creative about making it fun and beneficial. After all this is what makes their pain and injury stay away for good.
By the end of their recovery my clients shouldn’t ever need to see another rehabilitation therapist again for that condition. They’ll understand how to keep themselves safe. Quite frankly, if they’ve seen their rehab journey through to completion, they’ll be stronger, more agile and more resilient than they’ve ever been before.
And the nice thing about all this? You don’t need to be sporty. You can be a self-affirmed couch potato or a little old granny who just wants the freedom to do the things they love pain-free. I adapt every rehab programme to the needs of the person in front of me.