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How Long Should I Wait Before I get This Checked Out?
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A frequent statement that comes up during our physical therapy evaluations goes something like this: ‘yeah, it has been bugging me for awhile, but I just didn’t know how long I should wait’. That can be one of the toughest decisions to make when something in your body is aching or limiting you in some way. We often hear that people started having symptoms months or even years earlier, but they didn’t address the symptoms in the hopes that things will just go away on their own. Next thing they know, it’s 6 months later and they’re still hoping that things will get better next week.
Believe it or not, we therapists actually get the occasional aches and pains. I know; unbelievable, right? Most of the time, when it comes to pain or injuries, we’re just like anyone else; we don’t like to get hurt or be unable to do what we want to do. We get impatient when something doesn’t heal fast and often would go for a quick fix if there was one available to us.
When I have an injury, I try my best to take the advice I give patients. Let’s say I tweak my shoulder. Say it burns mildly at rest and causes a little stab when I reach overhead or to the side. I’ll do the normal ice and heat routine, work on pain-free range of motion exercises, and avoid aggravating activities. As for time frames, I will give the problem about 10-14 days to go away before I actually start to formally treat it. This time period is the normal healing time for a small strain, and experience has shown me that just about any small strain or sprain will resolve in about 2 weeks without specific intervention. This is the reason why if you go to a doctor with a mild to moderate back strain that happened 3 days ago, they’re going to tell you to rest and call if it’s not better in 2 weeks. The doctor knows that most episodes of low back pain are self-limiting.
That being said, if the pain starts after trauma (falling, being struck in the extremity, your dog sees a squirrel and tries to yank your arm off), it may be wise to only wait a few days before having it examined. This is also true if you can’t put weight on your leg or can’t lift your arm. If you have pain and would like to speak with one of our physical therapist, call one of our offices to schedule a free consultation and mention this article. This is a 5-10 minute conversation about the problems you are having, after which we can guide you towards the best way to start improving your health and function.