The Importance of Getting a Diagnosis, by Medical Exercise Specialist Karin Meessen

Familiar words.

If you've ever experienced pain while exercising with correct form, you may have asked your trainer why something hurts. At Pongo Power, we guide you safely through exercises and teach our clients proper technique from the start. If, despite this, something continues to hurt, or you fear you are injured, your trainer will advise you to seek the guidance of a medical professional or the results of an MRI. Although this can seem frustrating or like an extra step, diagnosing the cause of your pain or the type of injury that you have, is not within our scope.  

You may have been told:

“I don’t know why your (insert body part) hurts when you perform this exercise. I cannot diagnose you. If it is affecting your everyday life, please see a medical professional and/or get an MRI. For now, we will regress this particular exercise.”

In other cases, we may even advise the client to discontinue their training with us until they have obtained a formal medical diagnosis and medical clearance.

Why is getting a diagnosis important?

Sometimes two different conditions, with two different treatments, can present as similar bouts of pain in the body. The diagnosis of your ailment directs the course of your medical treatment, and the exercise protocol that follows. Every medical condition has its own set of exercise protocols. An exercise program for a client with spinal stenosis, for example, is much different from a program for a client with a herniated disc. In fact, some exercises for the stenosis client are contraindicated (or, should be avoided) for the disc herniation client and vice versa, even though both conditions may cause similar episodes of back pain.

Knowing what the exact issue is greatly affects the chances of a successful treatment, and hence, the quality of your life. The sooner you see a medical professional, the sooner the opportunity presents itself, to get better. Once you have completed your prescribed medical treatment and/or have been cleared for exercise, you will be able to engage in a medical exercise program specifically designed to improve functional deficits and/or manage your pain.

Exercising with an undiagnosed injury and/or chronic pain, may result in re-injury or, may worsen an existing condition. While making general lifestyle changes with regards to physical activity can aid in managing an injury and/or chronic pain, this step is insufficient and can do harm without proper diagnosis.

PLUS! There may be something even more serious going on.  We hate to tell you this, (and we won't, because it is not a factual assertion or assumption) but you could have a blood clot, or a benign/malignant tumor, or a stress fracture.  We don't know, and it would be completely irresponsible, to not help support you, in order for you to obtain your formal medical diagnosis, and make a full recovery.

Things to consider when seeing a medical professional for a diagnosis.

  • Does the MD accept everything you say, or does she ask probing follow-up questions?
  • Do you feel rushed? If so, it could be time to seek out someone else.
  • Does your MD explain what tools he or she is using to diagnose you?
  • Does your MD ask about your lifestyle?
  • Is your MD interested in getting a full history of your physical health?
  • Does your MD ask about specific symptoms?
  • Does your MD explain the treatment options available to you?

Being actively involved in your treatment.

Ultimately, it is the responsibility of your doctor to accurately diagnose the issue. However, you can help the process along and ensure appropriate treatment. Try some of these tips for the best possible outcome:

  • Try to provide an objective measure of your symptoms. For example, over the course of a week, you might keep a log of your discomfort, or rate your pain on a scale of one to 10, for each day.
  • Be honest about your previous history of injuries.
  • When your symptoms change, let your doctor know, particularly if you begin experiencing new symptoms.
  • Track your progress. If you're not getting better, it may mean it's time to try a different treatment option.
  • Ask your MD specific questions about why s/he has chosen a particular treatment and how long you can expect to wait prior to seeing progress.

Stay actively involved in getting a proper diagnosis and the appropriate treatment. That includes doing the homework a physical therapist may give you. The process can be frustrating because it can be an ongoing process rather than something that just happens once. The better you can explain your symptoms to an MD whom you trust, the better your chances at getting the right diagnosis, and therefor the right treatment.  At this point, you can enjoy life & start or resume your tailored exercise program.

Remember, you are in charge of your pain and your life. There are people around you who want to help you find the relief you deserve, you just need to know where and how to look. We here at Pongo Power are always here to help guide you along the way! 

Come in for a free fitness assessment.

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