By Dr. Luke Pedersen, PT, DPT, CSCS

It is an early Monday morning in the middle of December. My client, Sarah, sits up from the treatment table and starts putting her shoes on for the next part of her session. I had just completed some manual treatment techniques for improved range of motion and decreased pain.

This is Jen’s third appointment with me to help address a nagging knee injury that has been bothering her for a couple months. It has only been a few weeks, but there has already been significant improvements in her symptoms and her ability to perform her typical exercises and movements.

We go into the main area of the fitness center that is filled with a variety of gym equipment including machines, free weights, bands, medicine balls, and more. I instruct Jen in specific exercises to help address and alleviate her knee pain and help her make some modifications to the typical exercises she performs. We end the session by touching base with Jen’s personal trainer to share the progress she’s made, and I provide Jen with some “homework” (a few simple exercises to perform before our next session).

Gym-based physical therapy is a popular new trend, and for good reason. Personal trainers, gym owners, physical therapists, and clients are seeing the multiple benefits of a close connection and good communication between physical therapists and fitness professionals. A physical therapist can be vital to your fitness program and achieving your fitness goals.

When an individual is injured or experiencing pain while exercising, they will often exercise less frequently or stop completely for a period of time. Unfortunately, though, this starts to break the good habit of going to the gym and getting regular physical activity. Many individuals will ‘fall off the horse’ and will stop exercising or going to the gym completely.

For some, this is due to the false belief that it’s impossible for them to exercise without pain or causing increased harm to their body. For others, they want to return to exercising but need guidance on how to do so safely and effectively. This is where a gym-based physical therapist can be extremely beneficial.

The physical therapist helps bridge the gap from rehab to returning to the exercises and activities you enjoy. By providing services in the actual gym, the therapist can easily transition you from manual treatments and corrective exercises to demonstrating and instructing you in more dynamic and advanced exercises that you hope to return to. The therapist can show you how to modify your programs to avoid pain or re-injury and progress you back to your prior level. Additionally, the therapist can easily communicate with your personal trainer or other fitness professional so everyone is on the same page.

Unfortunately, this bridge between rehab and fitness is missing in many of your traditional physical therapy clinics. Typically, you attend physical therapy for a number of weeks until you’re mostly recovered (or your insurance runs out) and then you are discharged with some simple instructions and a handful of exercises to perform. With gym-based physical therapy, the physical therapist is readily available after discharge to help progress your routine, tweak an exercise, or address follow-up questions or concerns.

Personal trainers and fitness instructors love the benefits of a gym-based therapist, too. They are more comfortable working with and creating programs for clients with underlying injuries or concerns after receiving guidance from the physical therapist. They also know that that the physical therapist is readily available to address any pain or injury-related issues that may fall out of their area of expertise and knowledge.

For facility owners, physical therapy increases the gym’s offerings with minimal to no increased overhead for the gym. This also attracts new clientele such as the aging baby boomers and over 65 population. Additionally, there is improved member retention and decreased fall off as injuries, pain and other concerns are proactively addressed in-house. The physical therapist gets the individual back to exercising and working out sooner and helps them safely exercise around the pain or injury when appropriate.

Gym-based physical therapy is a win-win for physical therapists and gym owners, but more importantly, it is ideal for the clients as it keeps them active, safe, and on the right track toward achieving their fitness goals.

Dr. Luke Pedersen, PT, DPT, CSCS is a physical therapist and owner of Monarch Physical Therapy, PLLC. Monarch offers gym-based physical therapy services at different locations throughout Montgomery and Bucks County in addition to “Outpatient on Wheels” services in individuals homes or offices.