Aside from the obvious culprits of a PT visit (torn connective tissues, broken bones, surgery, etc.) here are FIVE things that may increase your chances of seeing me in therapy down the road. Basics? Eat well and move more!
1. Poor Posture
I'd say about 90% of our patients have pretty horrible posture, with some having quite extreme KYPHOSIS (upper back rounding.) Think grandma hunched over and shuffling with her walker at ninety (or earlier!) This is not your ultimatum--straighten up! How do you know if you're all in line? Stand against a wall with your heels, butt, shoulders, and head touching the wall. You should have a "neutral spine"; no excessive curvature and no extremely flat back. Generally, somebody should be able to shimmy a fist inbetween your back and the wall. Make sure your shoulders are not rounded. A good test? Make an "o" with your fingers and thumb, then hang your arms by your sides. If your "o" is facing inward, roll those shoulders back! If your "o" is facing forward, then congratulations, you have good shoulder posture. Keep it up!
2. Weak Glutes
The glutes are one of the most powerful muscles in the body, yet a staggering amount of people don't use them properly. This isn't just for aesthetics either; strong glutes are crucial for a healthy back because they help support the entire lumbopelvic region. Personally, I think everybody should learn how to deadlift properly (using primarily the butt and hamstrings with proper body mechanics) since we essentially "deadlift" several times a day. Mckenzie, a well-known spine biomechanic, once said, "the spine can only take so much flexion. Then it just goes." So learn to take the weight off your spine, and put it in that butt!
3. Ignoring Aches & Pains
I'm shocked at the amount of my patients who wait six to twelve months before they see a therapist for a nagging injury or pain that never goes away. At that point, they've usually been protecting the site for so long that they their range of motion has diminished radically and muscles have either weakened or tightened from misuse. It's even more crucial to get checked out the older you are since the healing process is much slower. If you have an ache or pain that won't go away within a few days, check with your doc. You may not have to get physical therapy, but any sort of intervention that will help alleviate your symptoms and get you moving pain-free again should be pursued.
4. Poor Nutrition
I first learned about the true importance of nutrition from my own Physical Therapist, Dallas Hartwig. He realized that eating an anti-inflammatory diet of mainly fresh meat (chicken, beef, pork, fish, game, etc.), healthy fats (fish oils, butter, coconut, avocado, olives, tallow, etc.) vegetables, fruits, and raw nuts/seeds helped him and his patients recover much quicker than a diet of vegetable oils, soy, and grains. I tell my personal training clients that they also make my job much easier by eating a more "anti-inflammatory" diet because it accelerates weight loss and gives them more energy for their workouts. I've also heard on several accounts that it helps reduce arthritis and bursitis flare-ups, including rhumatoid arthritis. It's important to know that eating the wrong foods can even cause "unexplainable" aches and pains, so try easing off the processed goods and see how that makes you feel.
How many hours a day do you spend sitting? Most of the population sit on their rear for about 8-10 hours a day. Even on the weekends, some of us are so "mentally drained" from the work week that we're too exhausted to do much else than veg out in front of a television. I'm hoping for some radical shift in this but I can't see that happening anytime soon, except that "treadmill desk" idea has actually gotten some pretty good reviews. ;-) A good rule of thumb is at least six hours of your day should be standing, plus 10,000 steps a day (about an hour and twenty minutes of normal-paced walking.) This isn't including additional exercise, such as weight lifting or physical recreational activities (dancing, hiking, biking, skiing, rollerblading, etc, etc, etc.) that should be done a few times a week. I think another crucial addition to those listed is consistent MOBILITY work. It's much easier to maintain than it is to improve, so a little bit of mobility work a few times a week (especially before exercise!) is truly not too much to ask for. Your joints need to move regularly in order to get adequate blood flow and nourishment, just like your heart does. Move that body!