photograph of the harvester physiotherapy pt health team standing at the front reception desk.

Using Prehabilitation to Avoid Injury

Sarah HodginsHealth


We are now only days away from the New York City Marathon and are following the story of 39-year-old Heather Shantora, busy single mom of 2 young kids, who decided to run the 42 km race in NYC. Oh, and did we mention that she’s not a runner?

In August, after three months of training, Heather started to experience intense pain in her hips and legs during and after her runs. Rather than risk an injury that would prevent her from completing the marathon that she had been training so hard to complete, she decided to take the prehabilitation route and booked an assessment with Jessica, a pt Health physiotherapist. Prehabilitation is when you optimize your physical function before injury; it is often thought of as something that you do to prepare your body for surgery, but can and should be done when making a big change to your exercise routine. In fact when speaking about prehabilitation, an article in the British Journal of Medicine writes “major surgery is like running a marathon – and both require training.”

Have you ever thought of trying a new exercise routine, signing up for a race, playing a new sport, or an old sport you haven’t done in years? Did you do it? And if not, what stopped you? Some people tell themselves right at the beginning that because they’ve never done it, they can’t do it, or they aren’t fit enough. Other people will try it and if they struggle, they will stop. And others still will find reasons not to do it, such as not having the time or resources.

While we aren’t suggesting everyone goes out and signs up for a marathon to challenge themselves, we do want to encourage people who want to try a new sport or get fit to do so. Don’t let fear of failure, or injury, or looking silly stop you. When looking to start a new exercise routine, make sure that you choose something that you have time to do, and take your time in building up to it. Also, don’t underestimate the benefits of prehabilitation – having an experienced professional make sure your body is ready to handle the new stress you are adding to your routine. Just look at Heather’s story: she was slowly easing into a new running routine, but after months of increasingly longer runs, her body was starting to show the wear and tear of the new routine. Rather than giving into the pain and doubting herself, she sought help from a rehabilitation team consisting of a physiotherapist and massage therapist, and eventually a chiropractor, and the results were incredible. In her words “they completely re-aligned and strengthened my body, so now I don’t have the pain. There is no way that I could have gotten here without them.”

There are a variety of techniques physiotherapists use in prehabilitation treatment, but the ones Heather found most relief from were traction (gentle and focused pulling on a joint to relieve pressure), active stretching (the therapist holds and challenges your stretch to allow you to stretch further and more effectively than stretching by yourself), and manipulation (skillfully moving the muscles and bones into the correct position). Other ways your physiotherapist can help you avoid injury are:

  • Identify and address potential problems such as weak muscles, overall posture, poor running style or poor flexibility
  • Tailor a specific exercise routine to build up your weaker areas
  • Manual therapy
  • Provide additional support to weaker areas through taping or splinting
  • Recommend and fit products to help support or realign your body such as orthotics
  • Use specific treatment modalities to address inflamed and irritated areas, including ice, moist heat, ultrasound or acupuncture
  • Provide you with the support you need to improve your physical health, and subsequently your confidence in what you are doing

So today, with support from her rehabilitation team, Heather is off to New York City and on Sunday she’ll be running her first ever marathon after 6 months of training. Good luck Heather, we are all cheering you on!


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