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Importance of Movement in Healing

Importance of Movement in Healing

As experts in the movement system, physical therapists treat musculoskeletal injury or pain through active and passive movement strategies. In other words, movement is part of the healing process.

In order to understand the role of movement in treating orthopedic conditions, it may be helpful to look at what happens when movement is unnecessarily avoided in response to injury or pain. Fear avoidance is a term used to describe a behavioral response to musculoskeletal pain whereby the individual avoids physical activity because they fear that it will worsen their condition. This fear-driven behavior has been associated with an increased risk for developing chronic pain. In other words, lack of movement is likely to prolong recovery.

There has been a considerable amount of research on this phenomenon, and a toolhas been developed to measure fear avoidance beliefs. Physical therapists may use this tool in order to understand their patient better. When people have high fear-avoidance beliefs, patient education on the benefits of movement in the healing process can help to address misconceptions that link movement with pain.  

Of course the right kind and amount of movement is key, and physical therapists have the knowledge to determine proper movement parameters. For example, controlled loading of tissues and activity modification are essential following acute injury, however movement of non-injured body regions can facilitate recovery. For sub-acute and chronic conditions, movement can actually help reduce pain while improving the integrity of body tissues. Impaired movement patterns can be addressed through corrective exercise, which improves performance and reduces the likelihood of re-injury. These are just a few examples of how movement is used therapeutically.

To summarize, while there are a variety of tools to treat musculoskeletal pain, perhaps the most powerful tool that we have is movement itself!

 Marcia Miller Spoto PT, DC, OCS

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