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Why you need a physical therapist

By Ruchel Louis Coetzee
Posted On Mar 10, 2017
Why you need a physical therapist

Ruchel Louis Coetzee


It never crossed my mind to equate the excruciating pain I felt in my knee with a visit to the physical therapist. After all, I had been casually jogging over three miles every morning for nearly five decades. What was a little knee pain to a seasoned jogger?? I put it down to age and promptly continued to think I could run after a brief rest and some ice packs. Was I ever wrong! After talking to Karen Joubert, PT owner of Joubert Physical Therapy, Beverly Hills, Inc, I realized that the type of stretching I was doing to ease the pain was hurting rather than helping. Yes, I was inadvertently causing more damage!


We are all reminded daily of the importance of exercise, not only for our wellbeing but to help prevent chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and hypertension. With the rising statistics of sports injuries attributed to exercise, it is important to know that physical therapy plays an integral part in this cycle to keep healthy. As an all-round champion gymnast, Ms. Joubert knows all too well the importance of physical therapists not only during her competitive teenage years but also later as a professional figure skater with The Ice Capades and then as a working mom trying to keep healthy. It is this knowledge and understanding through the years that now makes her the go-to person for celebrities, such as Jennifer Aniston and Cher, and star athletes who “need to be back in the game ASAP.” For those of us looking for long-term fitness and managing muscular pain from any sports injuries, Ms Joubert offers some valuable insight.


New You        How important is it to undergo physical therapy after a minor sports injury?


Karen Joubert                      People don’t realize how important it is. We do techniques like manual therapy, soft tissue therapy, and use modalities like ultra sound to get you back to function. We also help get the inflammation out of your system faster so that you can start the healing process quicker. We all make the mistake of jumping back into something too fast without letting that bone or that muscle or that tendon heal and that’s a big part of what we do. A good physical therapist can help speed up the healing process and also help educate you as to why you hurt yourself in the first place and when it’s safe to return to that particular activity.



NY       What is the danger of trying to ignore the pain?


KJ        If you injure yourself and you ignore the pain, your body will sometimes rob from Peter to pay Paul. For example, if you have a knee pain and you think you can figure out a way to walk without hurting your knee by getting the movement from your hip, you will inevitably pay for this some place in the body down the road. Now you’ve turned an acute little problem into a chronic problem and you are walking funny because you are using your hip, so your feet and back now become affected. After 25 years in the business, I really want to educate people that it is not okay for you to have pain – you need a good therapist because you deserve to have a good life.


NY       What lessons did you learn from being a champion gymnast?


KJ        That’s a great question! If I only knew then what I know now! When I was competing, I certainly did not have the amount of rehab and technology available to athletes that we have today, but the beautiful thing I did have was the ability to rest. I go back to that principle today. The biggest thing that people have to realize is that rest and time heals all wounds. In our society today, we feel like we have to keep going and going – we just push our bodies so hard that we have forgotten how to rest.


NY       How important is it to stretch before and after an exercise?


KJ        Knowing the important and proper ways to stretch can make the biggest difference. I had a patient who came in today who had knee reconstruction. He said he felt really tight after surgery so he started to stretch his hamstring. He actually created additional pain by forcing something to move that was tight. Whenever we have pain, after a surgery, or something feels stiff, the worse thing we could do is stretch it. Let’s say you went for a walk yesterday and you wake up the next morning feeling a little pull in your calf. So you get out of bed, put your hands on the wall and start stretching your heel back. What you are starting to feed into is a muscle that is already injured and doesn’t want to move, so you are actually adding insult to injury. I would first have you do an ankle pump and make you do an alphabet with your ankles to get the blood flowing and warm up the muscles and I would never have you stretching until that was healed. There are two forms of stretching – dynamic and static. Dynamic stretching is the kind I have just described – it’s all about movement, getting the blood flowing, lubricating the joints, and getting the muscles warmed up. Static stretching is when you hold a stretch and this should really be done at the end of a workout.


NY       Your client is tennis star, Serena Williams – what are the most common tennis injuries you have treated?


KJ        The most common injury I have treated from tennis has to be ankles. It’s a very dynamic sport because you have a lot of front, back, and lateral movements and any kind of explosive movement like that is very hard on the body. I’ve probably treated every body part on Serena. Another interesting injury you see in tennis is abdominal pain – tears in their abdomen. When you are serving a ball at 125 miles an hour and you lift up to serve, you’re opening that abdominal wall and the impact of bringing that racket through at that speed, it is a huge force.


NY       How difficult is it to help these celebrities who have very demanding schedules with no rest between the games?


KJ        Most elite athletes are very disciplined and very busy so we a lot an hour for cardio, an hour for strength training, and an hour for their sport drill. If they are injured, we look at things they have to do to prepare for a tournament. We will modify their program, make changes to their cardio, and instead of doing sprint drills we will have them walking in our anti-gravity treadmill. The cardio will change to low impact, their strength training will focus on areas that aren’t injured, and we’ll identify the areas of the body that need work – joint mobility, soft tissue, managing inflammation, or other therapies.


NY       You have also worked with Cher, correct?


KJ        She’s one of my favorites. She hired me right before she started her tour. She had extensive foot surgery after all the years of dancing and she called me up to tell me she had foot surgery. I replied, ‘who told you that foot surgery was a good idea right before going on the road?’ Her reply was, ‘well they told me I’d be better,’ so we immediately started intense rehab in order to get her into her stage shoes for performing. It’s so funny who I can talk about – Jennifer Aniston, Cher, Serena – all these people are at the top of their game. They are disciplined, they don’t drink, they don’t smoke, they exercise, they stay true to themselves, and the proof is in the pudding. These guys rehab 1 – 2 hours every day. Cher exercises two hours a day and works on her voice for an hour a day. You have to take care of your body.


NY       Is Jennifer Aniston as disciplined?


KJ        She’s extremely disciplined and trains like an elite athlete. Going back to the injuries and what these celebrities do – diet and nutrition are so important. You have to make sure you’re consuming enough protein for the tissue to heal and you have to make sure you are consuming enough water. It is all these things that make an elite athlete an elite athlete.


NY       How important is yoga?


KJ        It is important to mix everything up because your body becomes complacent if you do the same thing over and over again. That’s why people who use the same muscles tend to over strain. Crossfit, to me, is cross training. You are going to be healthier if you take a walk one day, do a stationary bike the next day, and a hike the following day. You are using different muscles by working out differently and that’s really key to preventing overuse injuries to the muscles.


NY       Do you feel people need more than just physical therapy to alleviate their pain?


KJ        I had a little lady come in today – she was 82 with a fractured back. She needed someone to take the time to really listen and address her needs.  No one took care of her and no one had ever done soft tissue work with her and she was so very grateful when we did. If you look people in the face, talk to them about their pain, help them understand what they are going through, and just take the time to listen, we would all be so ahead of the ball game.


NOTE: To learn more about the benefits of physical therapy go to www.joubertpt.com