Why Physiotherapists say “It Depends”

As physiotherapists, friends and family often ask us: “Hey, I have a (negative adjective ) (body part), how do I fix it?”

In fact, you may have asked a physiotherapist you know the same question, hoping to get some quick, free advice.

The unfortunate part is you probably got a vague, or less than satisfactory answer.

I promise you that it’s not because we don’t like you, we don’t want to give free advice, or we don’t know the answer.

More often than not, it’s because the answer isn’t that simple. The answer is, in almost all cases: “It depends”.

Now of course, in many situations, there are some general strengthening or stretching exercises that are safe for the majority of the population, and may help you a little bit.

But what if these exercises aren’t appropriate, what if they’re not helpful, or worse, what if they’re harmful?

In short, physiotherapists are trained to assess, diagnose, and treat a variety of musculoskeletal, neurological, and cardiovascular conditions.

“Treat” is listed third because the first two (assessing and diagnosing), are crucial first steps in arriving at the appropriate treatment (aside: in some cases, an exact “diagnosis” is not completely important providing red flags are ruled out, and a thorough assessment is conducted, but those are thoughts for another blog post).

While a thorough assessment is important for all areas of the body, it is especially true for the low back/spine.

For example, while a ‘disc protrusion/herniation’ and ‘spinal stenosis’ can both cause back pain and radiating symptoms down the leg(s), they are often treated in nearly opposite ways. Further, using the “stenosis treatment” (i.e. flexion pattern), to treat a disc herniation can actually worsen pain and symptoms in many cases, leaving you frustrated and irritable.

The purpose of this blog post is two-fold.

First, it is to help you understand that, unfortunately, not all injuries, or people for that matter, can be treated equally, with the same techniques.

Second, it is to encourage you to seek out a good physiotherapist who will do a thorough assessment to determine the most appropriate and safe treatment for you.

In closing, although the quick answer to “how can I fix my sore back?” may not be the most immediately gratifying, it should comfort you to hear a physiotherapist reply with two simple words: “It depends”.


At Strive Physiotherapy and Performance, we are committed to providing an in-depth assessment to ensure we can work together to find the best plan of action for each individual client.
Call us at 519-895-2020, or use our online booking tool on www.strivept.ca to book an appointment with one of our knowledgeable physiotherapists, and they will be sure to help you understand your injury.


Take care,

Tyler Allen
Physiotherapist at Strive Physiotherapy and Performance

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With quarantines and isolation underway, we are working diligently to reduce your risk of infection. We are now pleased to offer virtual physiotherapy appointments with your clinicians.

To book a virtual appointment, please call 519-895-2020.

While our clinic will remain closed until March 30th, our phones will be answered Monday through Friday from 10am – 4pm in the interim.

Thank you for your continued understanding and cooperation.

Stay Healthy!

Your Strive Team


BSc Kinesiology, University of Waterloo MSc PT, McMaster University


Born in Lahr, Germany

Mike treats people of all activity levels and ages from weekend warriors to elite athletes. He has mentored physiotherapists across Ontario as well as worked on the Board of Directors of the Ontario Physiotherapy Association. Recently, Mike represented physiotherapists within the Pan Am/Para Pan Am Games Medical Services Expert Provider Group. Mike has also had the opportunity to work side by side with orthopaedic surgeons, allowing him to work with many people following complex and traumatic injuries. Mike also consults over 1,000 physiotherapy cases nationally. This has given him a lot of insight into what Physiotherapy looks like across Canada.    

Prior to becoming a physiotherapist, Mike served in the reserves for 9 years as a member of the Artillery in the Canadian Armed Forces. He also enjoys coaching local athletes to help improve their performance through MeFit, a local not-for-profit organization.

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