Unfortunately, I have met with many different sports medicine providers since I have been running. (I am using the term “sports medicine provider” when talking about the fields of physical therapy, chiropractic, orthopedics, podiatry, etc). Over the past 10 years I have been to 2 podiatrists, 2 orthopedists, 2 physical therapists, and 4 chiropractors. I have learned quite a bit about what I am looking for in a provider and what works the best for me. A few years ago, I was just searching for providers online and didn’t really know what I was getting myself into. I thought I would share some tips I have learned over the years. Hopefully if you are trying to find someone to help you prevent an injury or recover quickly this will help you find a good fit the first time!
1. Get a recommendation from someone in your area.
This was difficult for me when I was first living in Baltimore because I didn’t know any other runners who were dealing with injuries. When I started having hip pain, which eventually lead to surgery, I did get a recommendation for the orthopedist who did the surgery. From there, he recommended a PT in my area who was really great. (Before that, I had a not-so-good experience with a physical therapist). If you are a member of a running club chances are pretty good that other runners will have been injured in the past and can recommend providers. You could also probably just go to a local running store and ask someone there.
2. Do your research.
Once you have a provider in mind, you can check online to see if they have a website that explains their credentials or any specialty areas they treat. I know that most of my injuries have responded really well to ART and Graston, so I make sure the provider I am going to is certified in those areas. It may also be helpful to gain some insight into your injury. While doctors have training and knowledge about injuries, it is your own body that is going through the pain and some providers are quick to jump to the most common diagnosis. If you can go in to your appointment able to specifically explain the issues you are having, as well as what you have tried (what has helped or not helped) and can ask insightful questions, you will most likely be able to get the best treatment. You may also get a better idea if that provider is a good fit based on his/her recommendations at that first appointment.
3. Trust Yourself.
As I said above, this is your body and no one else knows exactly how it feels. Trust your instincts. When my hip was hurting, I was told by a PT that it was just an alignment issue. I came to find out that I had a torn labrum. I knew when the treatments were not helping (and sometimes making it worse) that I needed a second opinion. This can be tricky because on the other hand, we may have our own guess at to what is going on but a more experienced person may know better. I try to listen openly to what they have to say but if I don’t feel like the treatment plan is helping after a few weeks, it may be time to reconsider.
4. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
I think most sports medicine providers have heard it all. I have actually learned so much by going to appointments with knowledgeable PTs and chiropractors. I have also learned that there are many different views on topics. (If you read articles about sports related injuries, you have probably noticed that). Again, I try to listen and see what works best for me. It is so important to learn about why you got injured in the first place, and how to prevent it from happening again.
5. Get a second, or third, or fourth opinion.
I have to admit that I grow attached to providers, and somewhat dependent on them. I finally found a sports chiropractor that I felt was a really good match for me…but he left his practice to work close to home (home being 2 hours away…). So I started seeing the other chiro at that practice, and I knew within the first couple of visits that it wasn’t a good match. I am now seeing someone else, and after 3 visits I am really happy with my decision to move on. If you feel like you are not getting better, it may be a good idea to get a different opinion. You may also want to consider the different options of physical therapy vs chiropractor vs orthopedist, depending on your injury.
Things to consider when looking for a sports medicine provider:
-Personality of provider
-Do appointments run on time?
-Do you feel like they will go out of their way to help you?
Ultimately I consider my appointments with a good chiropractor as a form of therapy. While they “fix” me we chat about running and other things that are going on. However, if you are dealing with a more serious injury, such as a stress fracture, it is more important to make sure that the doctor you are seeing is knowledgeable about your injury. You won’t be hanging out in his/her office twice a weak while they provide manual treatments. Your own preferences will likely differ based on the injury you are dealing with.
What do you look for in a sports medicine provider?
Have you ever had to seek out a second (or 5th) opinion?