After an injury, you might not know whom to turn to. Should you call a physical therapist, or should you book an appointment with a sports medicine doctor? Although both of these professionals can help you get better after an injury, most people should see their sports medicine specialist first. Here at Angelo Mattalino, MD in Scottsdale, AZ and Phoenix, AZ, we can diagnose your problem and then help you find the best solution.
We offer a wide variety of treatments, which range from simple regenerative medicine injections to complex surgeries that restore your joints. Once you’ve been treated, we can refer you to an excellent physical therapist in the area, who will help you regain your range of motion. Let’s have a closer look at what sports medicine specialists and physical therapists do and which one you should contact if you’ve been injured.
Are Sports Medicine and Physical Therapy the Same?
Sports medicine and physical therapy are different disciplines. If you have an injury, you might need to see both, depending on what tissues are involved and how severe the damage is. During a sports medicine appointment, your doctor will have a look at your injury and do imaging studies such as MRIs and CT scans to find out what kind of damage there is.
They can recommend and perform various treatments, including injections, surgery, and noninvasive interventions. In contrast, a physical therapist doesn’t operate on their clients. Instead, they recommend exercises and manipulate the tissue to create healthy movement patterns. Often, you will see your sports medicine professional first and then work with your physical therapist during the recovery phase.
What Does a Sports Medicine Doctor Do?
A doctor who specializes in sports medicine is highly knowledgeable about injuries related to the shoulders, knees, hips, ankles, and elbows. They are able to diagnose injuries such as fractures and ligament tears. What’s more, they can help you resolve these issues by suggesting various treatments.
Good sports medicine professionals will usually try to treat injuries using noninvasive or minimally invasive treatments. However, they can also perform surgery if necessary.
Your body contains natural healing agents that help you to recover after an injury. Most problems will resolve themselves over time, but it might take weeks or even months for a broken bone or inflamed joint to heal. If you’d like to speed up the process and make sure you don’t have any lasting damage, your doctor in Phoenix, AZ might suggest a regenerative medicine treatment called platelet-rich plasma injections.
Platelets are the small blood cells that stimulate new tissue growth at the site of an injury. During PRP treatment, we extract platelets from your blood and inject them straight to your injured joint. There, they will work hard to increase the speed of new cell growth and therefore facilitate the healing process. PRP injections are minimally invasive, so you don’t have to have general anesthesia or stay in the hospital overnight.
Sometimes, regenerative medicine isn’t enough, and your joint will have to be fixed surgically. This is often the case if a bone or ligament is not in the right position or if a tissue has torn completely and needs to be joined together again. Even if your sports medicine professional has to perform an operation, they will try to keep it as minimally invasive as possible.
Arthroscopic surgery is an innovative solution that allows us to keep the wound very small. This reduces the damage and makes it easier for the patient to heal. If your doctor believes that you can be treated this way, they will only make a small incision and place a tiny camera, an arthroscope, into your body. This will guide the surgeon’s way, so they can repair your tissues without having to see them directly.
Rehabilitation after Surgery
Once you’ve been treated by your surgeon, they will help you to recover from your operation. In fact, it’s likely that you will have several follow-up appointments with your doctor, and you might be given instructions and exercises that speed up healing. For example, people who have had knee surgery might be told to participate in continuous passive motion therapy.
This additional treatment makes use of a machine that moves around your knee very slightly. You won’t have to make the effort yourself, and you can do other tasks such as reading or watching TV while the machine passively moves your knee. CPM therapy and similar treatments can help you reduce the chance of inflammation, prevent the buildup of scar tissue, and enhance joint movement after surgery.
How Long Is the Treatment?
Generally, you will only visit your sports medicine professional when you have an acute injury. The diagnosis and treatment might take several weeks or months, depending on the severity of your condition. Surgery is a one-off treatment, and you’ll only have to see your doctor during the operation and then a few times for follow-up appointments. PRP injections are often administered once or twice every two weeks for a few months.
If you have a long-term condition such as osteoarthritis, you might need to see your sports medicine professional on a regular basis for the foreseeable future. Together, you and the doctor can come up with a treatment plan that fits your schedule and relieves your painful symptoms.
What Does a Physical Therapist Do?
A physical therapist is a specialist in helping people recover their range of motion and get rid of imbalances in the body, but they are not a physician. Instead, physical therapists have earned a doctor of physical therapy degree and then passed their state’s licensure exam. If you’re suffering from an injury to one of your joints, you might see this professional after you’ve received a diagnosis and treatment from your sports medicine doctor.
There are several ways physical therapy can help you. The therapist will first examine your body and make a note of the postural issues you need to resolve. That way, you can build up the correct muscles and prevent getting injured again in the future. They will give you exercises to do at home, but they might also manipulate you physically and use their hands to relieve tightness in your muscles.
How Long Is Treatment?
Most physical therapists recommend that you attend appointments for six to twelve weeks after your injury. Every month or so, your treatment schedule will be re-evaluated and adjusted. Some people, especially athletes and those who frequently have muscular or joint-related problems, see their physio on a regular basis, often once every two to four weeks.
However, many others only need short-term intervention, and they can manage on their own after a few months. To reduce the number of appointments you have to attend, you should do the exercises your physio gives you. This can increase the effectiveness of treatment and therefore reduce your need for ongoing help.
Which Professional Should I See?
People who have tense muscles or those who would like to prevent an injury by improving their posture should see a physical therapist. But those who have an acute injury will be better off seeing their sports medicine specialist first.
The doctor will have all the necessary knowledge and equipment to make a diagnosis, and they have a wider range of treatment options than a physio. If you have trouble bending your joint, you’ve been in pain for more than two weeks, or you’re finding it difficult to complete your regular tasks, you shouldn’t hesitate to reach out.
How Can I Find a Specialist in Phoenix, AZ?
To find the best specialist for your needs, check out the website of sports medicine professionals near you. Have a look at the educational background and experience of the doctor and check that they have practiced medicine in the area for a while. You can also read through the educational material provided on the website. If there is a lot of helpful content, it’s likely that the doctor is passionate about their work and has your best interests at heart.
Get Your Sports Injury Treated Now
Physical therapists can help you after an injury, but if you’re in a lot of pain or you believe you’ve damaged a bone or ligament, you should contact a sports medicine doctor first. They will diagnose the problem and offer an appropriate solution, which might be a regenerative medicine injection or a minimally invasive surgery. Call us now at Angelo Mattalino, MD in Scottsdale, AZ and Phoenix, AZ to book your initial appointment.