Sunday, December 2, 2012

How to find a good running doctor or physical therapist

My Injury Series articles detailing the causes and treatments backed by scientific research for the most common running injuries are some of the most popular posts on my blog.  Of the readers who are drawn to these articles, perhaps half of them are newly-injured runners who are looking to read up on what they need to do to recover.  The other half are runners who have suffered through the injury for weeks or months, having already been to and been disappointed by one or more doctors or physical therapists.  The medical community, like all trades, has a distribution of talent: there are some great doctors, a lot of mediocre doctors, and some very bad ones.  While many injuries can be successfully cured without ever seeing a doctor or physical therapist, there are definitely a lot of cases where it’s in your best interest to see a medical professional.  When to seek out a doctor’s help for an injury is mostly up to you; my own general rule is if a few days’ time off and some “self therapy” doesn’t help at all, and I can’t figure out what the problem is, it’s time to see a doctor or physical therapist.

The focus of this article will be fairly narrow: How do you find a good doctor or physical therapist? I won’t really cover the functions of individual specialties like podiatry vs. orthopedics and when to use them, but that’s something you can probably figure out on your own.  And if not, it’s a topic I’ll be covering in my third booklet, which I hope to release sometime in 2013! In any case, I think it’s advantageous for you as a runner or as a coach to build a network of medical practitioners who can help you out if you come down with an injury.  I say “network” because even the best doctors won’t be able to take care of all injuries.  Many top sports orthopedists have a special interest, be it the hip or the knee or a particular type of injury, so the person you’d see for a recalcitrant case of plantar fasciitis is probably not the same one you’d see for a perplexing case of groin pain.  Likewise for physical therapists: some are especially gifted in the function of a particular body part or particular type of injury, so the PT who can help you get over a bad ankle sprain sustained on a hike or during a workout might not be the one best-suited for recovering from a hip flexor strain.