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Why Physical Therapy is About More Than ‘Getting Better’

Why Physical Therapy is About More Than ‘Getting Better’

By Carrie Hall, PT, MHS

When you make an appointment with a physical therapist (PT) to rehabilitate after a shoulder injury, for example, it’s because you want to get better, right? Well, yes, but what exactly does that mean? As it turns out, “getting better” means different things to different people. To some, proper recovery from a shoulder injury means being able to carry a golf bag and swing a club while to others, it means being able to lift their child in and out of their car seat.

Here’s the thing – helping your PT know and understand your own personal goals is the key to success. As a patient, that means speaking up early and often about how the injury is limiting the everyday activities that are most important to you. With this knowledge, your PT can adapt your approach and individualize aspects of the treatment plan to ensure that you meet your goals. At Movement Systems Physical Therapy, we call this “person-centered care.”

It is part of a physical therapist’s job description to work with individuals to reduce pain and to improve strength, range of motion, balance and mobility. Your PT will address these aspects of your treatment regardless, but if you return home to unload the dishwasher and realize that you still can’t reach to place the coffee mugs on the shelf, then that’s a problem.

Your PT can’t possibly know everything that’s important to you—or the obstacles that you face—unless you share that information.  One way around this is to develop a list of the activities you cannot participate in at your preferred level. This list can include household chores, work-related activities, recreational or athletic activities, or hobbies. Bring this list to your first appointment and share this with your PT.  To take it a step farther, try to narrow that list down to ONE main GOAL – the thing that you want to be able to do better.  This ONE GOAL can give you something to focus on during your course of treatment—and motivate you to keep showing up and following the exercise program that your PT prescribes.  Communicate, Engage, Achieve – that is a successful formula.

With a little effort on both sides, you and your PT can work together to customize your care to get you back to doing what gives you joy. The Doctors of Physical Therapy at Movement Systems will guide you to be forever better!