“Move Forward.” “Get Moving!” “ iMove.” Sound familiar? These slogans emphasize the benefit of Physical Therapy – helping patients get back to the activities that they love. Unfortunately, much of the public perception of physical therapy centers on the pain that it takes to get to this benefit. When recuperating from surgery, the first complaint of most patients is about how painful it was to start using their injured joint again. For some, physical therapy seems like something to be afraid of. Potential patients may even shy away from physical therapy simply out of fear, and that’s unfortunate; especially if therapy treatments could help improve their condition. That’s why therapy professionals have to take seriously their responsibility to promote therapy as a positive—not a painful—experience.
Explaining therapy to tentative patients
The fact is, physical therapy is meant to reduce many different types of pain, not produce additional pain. To counteract negative connotations of physical therapy as painful treatment, therapists need to educate the public and their patients. Here’s what you can do:
- Promote the benefits of physical therapy. Therapy can help patients of all ages, from babies to seniors. With time, it will reduce the pain associated with muscle tears, herniated discs or other injuries, or surgical pain, especially from joint replacements. Physical therapy can also help patients reduce existing pain caused by arthritis, nerve damage, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, spina bifida, etc. The more the public understands about the full spectrum of therapy treatments, the more open they may be to becoming a patient.
- Promote therapy as a means of healing. Therapists design treatments that allow for healing without reinjuring or overworking a patient’s injured muscles, joints or bones. Physical therapists are trained to work gently, using as much range of motion as possible, up to the point where the patient’s injury exists. To do so requires asking a patient to move toward his or her pain point, but pause right before he or she reaches it. Explaining this process and the reason for it to patients is very important.
- Stress the difference between discomfort and pain. Patients must listen closely to their bodies during treatment, and this includes knowing their pain threshold. Although patients may experience some discomfort during physical therapy because they’re using muscles in a new or different way, they must learn to discern the difference between stretching and pushing themselves to gain strength and pain that is responding to injury. Don’t expect your patients to know the difference between these sensations. Patients need to run thru their exercises with your close supervision and feedback to figure out where they are in pain and when they are only in discomfort.
Encourage the recovery process
Some of your patients may have new injuries and others may have been living with pain for a while before seeking therapy. Their pain may be emotional, as well as physical. As a therapist, you are in a unique position to offer hope by sharing stories of other patients that you have worked with and their success. Sharing your experiences can help bring perspective to your patient’s suffering and motivate them with the promise of reduced or eliminated pain, improved movement and a better quality of life overall.
Looking for your next physical therapy position?
You’ve come to the right place! At PT Solutions, we’re a staffing agency run by therapists for therapists. We’ll work with you for just the right placement in a setting you find both rewarding and exciting. To take the next step in your physical therapy career, contact PT Solutions today.