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2 reasons annual PT exams are a crucial part of any preventive physical therapy plan

Preventive Physical Therapy
3 minutes, 23 seconds

If you don’t see your physical therapist annually, you may want to consider starting as soon as possible. In fact, annual physical therapy exams should be a key component of almost anyone’s preventive care plan. 

What is an annual PT exam?

Annual physical therapy exams are a type of preventive PT, and they’re similar to the annual checkups people get from their doctor. They help your care providers maintain an accurate understanding of the current state of your musculoskeletal health. They’re also different from a general medical checkup in the following specific ways: 

  1. They focus on musculoskeletal health.

Primary care doctors are typically more concerned with your overall health. So, that’s what they’ll check during an annual checkup. Physical therapists are experts in the musculoskeletal (MSK) system (bones, cartilage, ligaments, tendons and connective tissue) and issues that affect it. Thus, physical therapists will be checking you over for MSK issues or checking on chronic MSK issues you have during an annual PT exam.

  1. They typically don’t lead to more prescriptions.

Medication isn’t the only weapon in your primary care doctor’s arsenal, but it is one that’s used to address a wide range of health conditions. However, physical therapists are trained to different, but still effective, treatments. The treatments that physical therapists offer are typically natural options like: 

  • Individualized exercise programs.
  • Core-strengthening plans.
  • Balance training.
  • Dry needling.
  • Instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization.

How can annual physical therapy exams help with your body’s preventive maintenance?

  • A chance to identify any problem areas without immediate symptoms — Seeing a physical therapist for a yearly exam is an essential piece of any preventive physical therapy plan. Your physical therapist can identify any areas of concern in your body (even if you’re not experiencing symptoms). Understanding these areas that could be prone to injury is the first step to preventing the risk of injury or harm.
  • An opportunity to check on scar tissue formation — Scar tissue can develop years after an injury or surgery. A yearly physical therapy exam is one great way to keep track of scar tissue growth. This type of preventive care is important to decrease your risk of immobility due to scar tissue buildup.
  • A chance to check on a chronic MSK condition — Certain MSK conditions can be a long-term problem. A great example of such a condition is osteoarthritis. Since chronic MSK conditions often get worse over time, it’s a good idea to check in with your physical therapist at least once a year. That way they can review your management plan, assess changes in your condition and update your management plan to better address the current state of your condition.
  • A way to optimize future physical performance — Just as you might take your car in for regular maintenance to improve its longevity, you should see your physical therapist at least once every year. With their professional assistance and treatment capabilities, you can rest assured that your body will have optimized physical capabilities as you grow older.

Common next steps after your annual physical therapy exam

What comes next in your preventive physical therapy journey after an annual PT exam depends heavily on what is found during your exam. 

For some people, their exam may reveal no major issues. Thus, the next step would be to maintain your MSK health, which your physical therapists can give you tips for. You should also plan to have another PT checkup next year. 

There are also people whose annual exams reveal MSK issues. For these people, the next step can be taken the same day as your exam, and it will typically be to make another appointment to come back and see your physical therapist again. But don’t worry. They can also provide you with some ways to start addressing your issue in the meantime.

Alliance PTP is ready to help you find top-notch preventive physical therapy

At Alliance Physical Therapy Partners, we’re proudly bringing together physical therapy practices across the country to help people get the high-quality PT they need. 

Want to see a physical therapist in person? We can put you in touch with an Alliance PTP partner that’s close to you and that can help you find preventive PT or an annual PT exam near you. 

Not keen on in-person PT sessions or not close to an Alliance PTP partner? No worries. We also offer effective and affordable virtual physical therapy through our Agile Virtual Physical Therapy platform. 

Contact our team today so we can help you find the most effective physical therapy services for your injury or condition.

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