Exercise is Medicine

by | Jul 26, 2017

Life comes with a few inevitable things – aging can be one of the most frustrating. When you are twenty you may not think much about it, but as the years continue we will all notice its effects. A common way people experience aging is joint pain, and resulting limitations this puts on lifestyle and activity. With these limitations come reductions in fitness and other medical issues.

What got me musing on the above was a study of Medicare data on knee pain treatment in over 65s. They reviewed 52,504 beneficiaries data to see the effect of immediate, intermediate or later rehab. They found that those who had non-traumatic knee pain that received rehab within 15 days of diagnosis were 33% less likely to engage in later use of drugs, 50% less likely to receive nonsurgical invasive procedures, and 42% less like to undergo surgery. This level of success was not seen in those who had intermediate rehabilitation (16-120 days after diagnosis), and late rehabilitation (120 or more days after diagnosis). But, even with such great effects of early rehab only 11% of the beneficiaries were getting it!

This particular study only included people over 65, but I would be surprised if the same is not true for other age groups. Similar might also be seen for certain traumas that do not require surgery. While the study did not explicitly determine why outcomes were improved by early rehab, I have a very reasonable idea: because rehab uses therapeutic exercise to unlock the body’s natural healing processes. Rather than waiting on imaging, allowing muscles to atrophy during excessive rest, or relying on passive treatments like pain medication or injections, Physical Therapy shows you how to safely and confidently move, strengthen the weakness that led to the injury, and correct the root cause of the pain. Compared with drugs, injections, or surgical interventions, therapy is cheaper, safer, more natural, and likely to be less stressful and painful, with far fewer side effects.

I would encourage you to seek out the help of a physical therapist when you have injury or pain. Not only is the treatment natural and has minimal risk, but also it can often help you become more active. For example, I often find that people who come to see me for knee pain have other issues such as low back pain. To holistically help with the knee pain, we also provide care for the low back, and this often leads to improved overall function, allowing them to exercise more, get back to doing the things they love, and overall become more healthy. This brings around full circle to address what I wrote in the first paragraph: that impaired physical function often affects lifestyle and activity and can contribute to health issues. This lines up with a recent slide presented by a Mayo Clinic doctor showing how much of an impact physical activity can have on various health conditions!

Exercise as preventative medicine from Mayo Clinic

Physical therapists are experts in rehabilitation, movement, and exercise. If you have questions about a particular issue, drop me an email or call and I would be happy to discuss how we can help!


Joel M. Stevans, G. Kelley Fitzgerald, Sara R. Piva, Michael Schneider; Association of Early Outpatient Rehabilitation With Health Service Utilization in Managing Medicare Beneficiaries With Nontraumatic Knee Pain: Retrospective Cohort Study. Phys Ther 2017; 97 (6): 615-624.

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  1. Tom Kruse

    Great blog writeup Andrew! I think sometimes people think “rehab” means 4-6 weeks of 2 or 3 visits per week, but as you know, much can be done with intensive one-on-one sessions. It may only take 3 or 4 TOTAL visits over the course of 6 weeks! Keep up the good work!

    • PhysioWorks

      Thanks Tom! I am seeing great success with patients using this approach!


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