Patient’s Guide to Successful Physical Therapy

I am not a physical therapist, and I have no medical training. I do have years of experience as a patient in physical therapy and have developed this ten-step program for successful physical therapy.

My visits to a physical therapist have all been as a result of a chronic disease I have. I have had to undergo therapy after surgeries, from injuries, and for severe chronic pain, all as a result of my disease. I have been in physical therapy (PT.) both as a hospital in patient and an out patient. I believe in the value of PT. and credit it with my continued good level of physical function.

These are my 10 steps to successful physical therapy.

1. Choose the correct therapist.

This is very important. Most PT. sessions will begin with an intake session. This will allow you to decide if the therapist is someone you can comfortably work with. I cannot work with a therapist who does not listen to me. I react best with someone who is not bubbly or verbose. I never want a therapist to feel sorry for me. If I see any of these traits during the intake, I will ask for a new therapist. Remember this is your therapy and you have that right. You must be able to have a comfortable relationship with your therapist.

2. Make certain the therapist understands the doctor’s orders.

Many times your therapist will be working from a handwritten prescription from your doctor and mistakes can be read. Have your therapist thoroughly explain what their understanding of your condition is from your doctor’s orders, not from what you say. Have your therapist call your doctor if you are not satisfied with their explanation. Failure to do this may put you on a totally wrong and possibly harmful PT. course. This is your responsibility make certain you get the correct therapy. I talk from experience.

3. Attitude.

After the first two steps are out of the way, this is the most important thing for you to do now. This is your therapy, not your neighbor’s, co-worker’s, or your mother-in-law’s PT. Listen to them politely then put it out of your mind. PT. will make you better, adjust your attitude to accept this fact. Can I be more blunt?

4. Be flexible with your time when setting the PT. appointments.

We are all busy and having to make the appointments for PT. is going to be difficult. The schedulers have a far more difficult job juggling times than you do so be patient with them. Remember that the number and times of your appointments, are determined by what is best for your recovery. Be willing to sacrifice your time for PT.

5. Get to your appointment at least fifteen minutes early.

In my many years of experience with PT., I have found them to be very punctual, unlike other medical fields. Getting to your appointment early will allow you to relax and become calm before you begin your PT. session. Use the time to put away any distractions which will keep you from having a good PT. session.

6. Take notes.

Your therapist will probably give you diagrams of exercises and written instructions. Use these to make your own notes on. When you are at home, these notes will help you remember what the therapist said.

7. Be honest.

Tell the therapist how you feel, be honest when they ask. If you try to be the macho king or suffer through pain, you risk injury and will not have a good PT. session. The therapist will use your answers as a guide for their decisions on how much and type of therapy they will be doing.

8. The therapist is the boss.

If you have followed the steps above your therapist will be doing the correct PT. The therapy can and probably will hurt, but that does not mean you stop. Your therapist is the boss. You might not think you cannot lift your arm over your head, but the therapist is the boss and if they say to, you do it. Once more I speak from years of experience.

9. Do your exercises.

Every time I have had PT., I have been given exercises to do either in my hospital room or at home. These exercises are very important. Your thirty to sixty-minute session of PT. is not enough time to bring yourself back to health and that is why you have to do your exercises. Set aside a specific time to complete all of the exercises and make sure to allot enough time. Be vigilant with this schedule and let nothing interrupt you. This is the most important thing you will be doing while in PT.

10. Schedule a rest time after your appointment and exercise periods.

Rest is important for the healing process and important for your attitude toward PT. You most likely will feel increased pain after PT. or an exercise session. This is why it is important to plan a rest time. Sit in a comfortable chair and read a good book, watch TV, or listen to music. Do whatever relaxes you for at least thirty minutes. Rushing back to work or home to make dinner is not relaxing.

PT. can be your route to health and mobility. How you approach PT. and participate in it can make all the difference in the world as to the result you will achieve. These 10 steps have been helpful to me, I hope they will work for you as well. Good luck with your physical therapy.

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