You have been going to see a physiotherapist for some nagging pain, attended a few appointments, maybe visited your doctor or had imaging done, but your pain hasn’t gone away yet.
Physiotherapy can mean a lot of things for many people, so before we assume that physiotherapy isn’t working for you, there are a few things you may want to consider.
Thought 1: Clinician/Clinic Values
I’ve discussed this in previous articles, so I will try to keep it short. Physiotherapy is an expensive service, too expensive for just hot packs and machines and too important to be deemed as useless. And while all physiotherapists are trained to an excellent standard, occasionally you might find one therapist or treatment style works better for you than another.
So how do you choose a great therapist (and/or clinic).
Be weary of machines. Research your physiotherapists qualifications. Expect to be put to work (yes, expect some type of homework). Your treatment should be based on clinically evaluated research. And most importantly, the goal is discharge not treatment forever. Ask around. Usually word of mouth is the best source because the proof will be in results for current and past clients. Seek out those therapists who have a passion for helping others, not increasing their pocket book. Do not let fancy things and labels fool you. Just because therapists treat professional athletes doesn’t mean they are the best healthcare practitioner for your needs. Just because the clinic space looks expensive, doesn’t mean the clinicians are amazing. The most important thing is that you feel comfortable with your therapist and the surrounding environment as this will be the base for your healing.
Thought 2: You aren’t putting in the work
One of my friends, and a fellow physiotherapist, Christina introduced me to my new favourite quote, “Your success is your responsibility. Take the initiative, do the work, and persist to the end” – Lorii Myers. This quote resonates with me across many different avenues, but with respect to healing I’d sum it up as: help me help you. As a physiotherapist I am your guide throughout rehabilitation. As clinicians we will help you on your path to recovery from injury, however, you have to put in the effort as well. Show up to your appointments. Do your homework. Never give up. Persist to the end.
The tasks set out for you in your home exercise program (a.k.a your homework), whether they be exercise, mindfulness, or behavioural and lifestyle modifications, are the meat and potatoes of your rehab program and are often more important than the treatment time itself. The hard truth is this: in order to feel better you have to act as your own secret weapon, you have to show up for yourself daily and do the thing(s) that will make you feel better.
Thought 3: The Road to recovery isn’t a linear progression
This is a goody so listen up. The road to recovery is not always a smooth one. I can tell you that even doing ‘everything right’ does not guarantee a speedy, linear recovery – and that’s okay and totally normal. We are highly complicated multifactorial beings, and your rehabilitation from injury is going to be a process. One that requires trust, commitment, and adaptability. It’s impossible to predict everything that will come up during your recovery. There are going to be good days and bad days. You may be feeling great for many days in a row and then all of a sudden you have a symptomatic day. Don’t worry. There are so many factors that contribute to healing and effect our journey, this includes: stress, sleep, hormones, age, previous injuries, activity level, beliefs about pain, medications, time of day, etc., etc., etc.
Our bodies are extremely resilient, but they do require time to adapt. It is important to remain patient, listen to the guidance of your healthcare practitioner, and listen to your body. Overall, the amount of ‘setbacks’ or ‘flare ups’ shouldn’t be the focus so long as the trend for recovery is moving in a positive direction, because that’s the golden ticket.
Bottom line: try not to panic if you have a flare up, this is a natural part of the healing journey. If you do find yourself
having a bad day or flare up try to avoid feelings of discouragement and instead focus on other measures of progress such as: symptoms intensity, frequency of symptoms, ability to do more without symptoms, having symptom-free moments, improved sleep, feeling stronger, being more confident in your movements, and improvements in energy and mood. After all, “Giving up on your goal because of one set back is like slashing your other three tires because you got a flat,” – Unknown.
Though 4: Rehab doesn’t end when pain does
This is something we are all guilty of. When an immediate threat dissipates so does our motivation to do something about it. In the rehab world that goes something like this: you come to your physiotherapist with a problem, you get better, you get discharged from your care plan, but then after a while your pain returns either with time or after a specific activity. I know that this is frustrating; you put in the work shouldn’t it just be better. The answer is no, not really. Your injury rehabilitation shouldn’t end when your pain goes away.
Exercise in itself is an analgesic, meaning exercise can have a pain reducing effect. Obviously this is a good thing, but there can be less desirable effects as well with regards to compliance. The exercises prescribed have helped, and there is no longer any pain, as a result the majority of people stop doing the exercises. The issue here is that stopping the exercises prematurely also rids of the analgesic effect, meaning the pain returns because the healing
process hasn't fully occurred. Additionally, many injuries result in strength imbalances due to the
relative inactivity during the initial phases of injury. Thus, it is recommended to continue with your home exercise program, especially strengthening your affected side even after pain is gone to ensure that deficits in strength have been resolved.
Thought 5: Your injury required medical or surgical intervention
Worth noting is that you may not be getting better because the injury sustained is too substantial to respond to rehab alone. There are a small percentage of injuries that require a more intensive (or invasive) intervention in order to fully heal. Regardless, it is often recommended that physiotherapy (or alternative approaches such as RMT, Chiro, etc.) be trialed before attempting these more invasive treatments (i.e surgery, injections, etc.).
At the end of the day you are a huge factor when it comes to injury recovery. As your physiotherapist I am not going to get rid of your pain. However, I am going to encourage you to get in the driver’s seat while I sit beside you to help you navigate your journey. In the passenger seat I will help provide you with the education needed to understand your condition, what you can do about it, provide you with interim relief, and keep you accountable. Now all you need to do is decide that you want to be an active part in your recovery; get better, rise up to better health, and reach your full potential.
For more information or to book an appointment call 705-380-3312 or visit the website . Surge Physiotherapy is located at 33 King William Street, Suite 204, in Huntsville. Office hours are flexible with evening appointments available (3x/week). Email – firstname.lastname@example.org
Stephanie is a bilingual, Registered Physiotherapist with the College of Physiotherapist of Ontario and the Canadian Physiotherapy Association who is committed to providing a hands on, personalized approach to physiotherapy.
Stephanie, a native to the Huntsville community, developed a passion for health and wellness during her youth while competing in cross-country running, nordic skiing, and track and field. Stephanie has always had a strong caring nature and fell in love with the physiotherapy profession while volunteering at a physiotherapy clinic during high school and university.
Stephanie continued to build on her passion for health care by attending McGill University and completing her
Bachelors of Science in Kinesiology. During her Masters in Health Science of Physiotherapy, completed at the University of Ottawa, she completed internships in orthopaedic clinics, hospitals, home care, and neurology centres.