I have had the pleasure and honor to be physical therapist to many folks, athletes and non-athletes alike. Through my years of experience helping patients from different levels of injury (from strokes to acute ankle sprains), the most ever-present and the most difficult hurdle for my patients – and ironically, the BIGGEST AND MOST IMPORTANT ingredient needed in their recovery – is to find positivity after injury.
Getting hurt is not fun. Not only do patients have to suffer through pain and inflammation, but oftentimes they have to endure us physical therapists
(or should I say, “physical torturists”) in their rehab. The first week of PT is always the toughest with new exercises, then a speech from us about scar tissue, maybe some uncomfortable soft tissue work, relearning how to move your body … it is A LOT to take in. I’m sure the question, “Will I ever get better?” has crept into a lot of my patients’ heads
– especially when they wake up feeling stiff and sore the morning after PT.
Below are some things I have learned from my patients that may help you get through the injury doldrums.
Find your Goal and focus on it
Fixate on an activity that you want to be able to do after recovery. Aim high! “To play a round of basketball with my work buddies” is far more fun and engaging than “To be able to walk again.” Share it with your physical therapist and negotiate a reasonable time-frame. We will work on that goal with you and practice incremental exercises to prepare you for it. Close your eyes and imagine yourself at your goal. Write it down. Talk about it and keep it always fresh in your head. You’ll find that you’ll be there in no time.
Good things come to those who ask for it
We love people who ask questions about their condition. We think of it as an excuse to show off our medical knowledge-prowess. Sometimes the things we do in therapy might seem pretty basic, but the premise and reasoning behind every intervention is always rather complicated. We believe the more patients know about their problem, the more motivation they have in taking care of it. So don’t be shy, and ask away.
This also goes the same for when you’re not feeling so great when you’re with us. A lot of folks think that PT is a lot of “no pain no gain” but this isn’t always the case. We cannot feel what you feel, so let us know and we can adjust things accordingly. Keeping the lines of communication open also allows us to know whether our treatments are effective. Know your own limits and your physical therapist will stay within them. There is never any judgment or criticism involved – hey, we’re on your side!
Avoid comparing yourself to others
No injury is ever the same as another person’s injury so don’t compare yourself to someone else’s pain or path to recovery. Setting your yardstick against someone else’s model always leads to negative emotions of inadequacy, failure or impatience. Focus instead on your individual goals and progress and you won’t be sidetracked.
Trust your healthcare team and trust your power
I have to use a cheesy analogy here: your healthcare team is like your NASCAR pit-crew and you’re the driver of the car. Trust each member of your pit-crew in their individual jobs – we’re there to repair and maintain the different parts of your body. But a car can’t drive itself much like a body can’t go without the will to move it. So trust your power in navigating yourself to the finish-line. Afterall, you’re the one doing the home exercises three times a day, everyday. After all is said and done, give yourself a good pat on the back because you just did 95% of the work!
By Alice Holland, DPT.
Alice’s Google + page.
Doctor of Physical Therapy, Director at Stride Strong Physical Therapy