A ‘Physiotherapist turned Patient’ perspective

I recently went to see a registered massage therapist for some badly-needed treatment. At the end of the session, the therapist sat me down, looked me straight in the eye, frowned a little and sighed.

“Are you doing your daily self-care?” she asked. “No,” I whispered. I literally could not remember the last time I had performed my neck stretches, and told her so. She frowned harder. I squirmed in my chair. ” I have a six-month old baby so it’s really hard to..”, I stammered. “I really want to do it but I can never find the time…it’s a miracle if I can find the time to eat.”  I trailed off, hoping she would spare me the shaming that I was sure would be unleashed momentarily. However, instead of lecturing me she proceeded to ask when dinnertime for my family is, and suggested that every time I sit down at the table to have a meal, I take sixty seconds for each side of my neck. In this way, she explained, I would be treating my body to healthy food and healthy movement at the same time every day. Ah! The old ‘killing two birds with one stone’ trick. I left her office empowered with a new strategy, and ecstatic to have my self esteem still intact.

Back at home with the baby on my hip, and in between pecks, pats, cuddles and coos, I began to think about the interaction between the therapist and me. What was the turning point in the session? What was it that had made it so therapeutic? How did I leave the office feeling hopeful instead of dejected? Her ability to ask key questions, listen without judgement, and understand the barriers is what created an opening for me to try stretching again. And my willingness to be honest with her about my woeful home exercise record was the first step.

I can understand how it sometimes feels to be in therapy – feeling beholden to the practitioner’s program and guilty for not seeing it through. Then slinking into the treatment room and confessing perceived ‘failures’ from the week before. To the clients, I say this: you actually have a lot of power to direct the program and make it work for you. If your program is not working for you, please tell your therapist! Skilled therapists ask the right questions to figure out how to tailor the treatment to your lifestyle. This leads to better compliance and ultimately you achieve your goals. Use your power- help us help you.

Five Powerful Questions to Ask Your Physiotherapist:

  1. I’m really busy. What is the minimum I should be doing every day?
  2. How can I adapt this program for work and school?
  3. I’m going away on vacation soon. Can you suggest a strategy to continue my program while travelling?
  4. I can no longer attend treatment. Can I still make progress on my own?
  5. How long before I see changes as a result of this program?
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