5 Ways to Maximize Your Physical Therapy Experience

By Amy Elliott, MSPT

So you’ve developed a nagging pain, or you’ve managed to injure yourself. Your doc has recommended that you undergo a course of physical therapy. Now what?

Physical Therapy can be a very powerful tool for getting over a painful condition and on with your life. Your therapist will undoubtedly play a large role in your recovery process, but really it’s a team effort. After all, it is ultimately your body and therefore your responsibility to care for!  With that in mind, here is what you can do to maximize your therapy experience and expedite your healing.

1.Take Responsibility: Understand going into therapy that your therapist has the knowledge and expertise to steer you in the right direction to optimize your healing, but that it’s up to you to follow through on their recommendations. You will spend 1-4 hours/week with your therapist, and while that time is invaluable in allowing them to provide you with some hands on care, educate you on your condition, and guide you through exercises, that still leaves 160+ hours/week during which what you do will impact your progress.

2. Set Realistic Expectations: This can be a tough one for patients, and understandably so. Anxious to get back to their prior level of function, and not knowing the pathology underlying their condition (or the time it takes for tissues to heal), it is very easy for folks to be off base with their expectations. As a (very!) general rule, you can plan to be in therapy for at least 6 weeks, but every individual case is unique. Be sure to talk with your therapist at your first visit (once they’ve had the chance to fully assess your pain condition) about their findings, and how that will potentially impact your timeline for healing.  And that leads nicely to the next recommendation ….

3. Ask Questions: And don’t be shy about it! Part of our job as a therapist is to educate you on your body (both its normal function and what’s gone wrong in your particular case) as well as 14330029_10154468084998255_6633392506407393511_nthe “how and why” behind our treatment choices and recommendations.  The way I see it, the better a patient understands what is going on, the easier it is for them to set realistic expectations and take responsibility for making sure those expectations are met.  So if you ever feel you don’t fully understand any part of your treatment, ask … and ask follow up questions until you do!

4. Be Open/Honest: An honest, ongoing dialogue regarding your condition is invaluable in optimizing your treatment. Patients often hesitate to elaborate too much on their pain for fear of sounding like they are complaining.  Pain, however, is not palpable to your therapist (as things like muscle tension and joint mobility are). Without your honest reports they will have no way of uncovering such valuable information about your current state, and how their treatment choices are affecting that condition.  Withholding information about your activity level and compliance with your therapist’s recommendations is never a good idea either.  First of all, we can always tell when a patient is not following through ;-). Second, you are only hurting yourself!  If you find you are unable or unwilling to follow through on what your therapist suggests (whether it be particular exercises, activity restrictions, postural adjustments, etc), bring it up at your next session. The two of you should be able to problem solve through any barrier.

5. Listen to Your Body: Paying attention to how your body is responding to treatment can be crucial to your overall recovery. Pain is your body’s way of alerting you to trouble, and ignoring it can be very detrimental to your healing.  Because pain is, well, painful, it can be very attention grabbing. Relief from symptoms can be easier to miss.  However, paying attention to those things that bring relief can be just as important to note.  Being open and honest with your therapist about what your body is telling you will assist them in evaluating the effectiveness of treatment and allow them to adjust accordingly.

Take Advantage of our Free Consultation Sessions

If you still are not sure if Physical Therapy is right for you, come talk to us! We’d be happy to answer any of your questions and explain in more detail how we might be able to help you specifically overcome your painful condition.  We offer free 30 minute, no obligation, consultations at all of our locations. Give us a try today!

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