Written by Adele Ang
"I am such a good patient!"
"Yes!", I agreed wholeheartedly when Mr K, a patient whom I have been seeing for foot and ankle pain said that he has been a good patient. He recovered quickly, regained his mobility and function with some residual tightness left in his ankle. No longer experiencing debilitating pain which woke him up at night, he remarked that it is so important to be a good patient.
He went on to elaborate how he understands for physiotherapy to help, as a patient he needs to be able to provide good quality information, like what he did that helped and what didn’t and provide more insights to help me direct treatment and exercises more specifically. I could not agree with him more. It was indeed delightful to work with Mr K.
Pain after all, is a subjective experience, that needs to be expressed and verbalised. Hence, as the patient, Mr K was the expert in his pain experience. As his physiotherapist, I can only do a good job if he does his part as a patient. His part as a patient, is largely to be an active participant in the process.
As a patient I am sure you would want the best outcomes. Here are some things you would want to take note, to have positive outcomes from physiotherapy, like Mr K did.
1. Be an active participant
Patients who do really well with physiotherapy actively participates. They share information about their complaints, they provide feedback on what has helped or not helped them, in other words they are not a passive recipient of physiotherapy. Remember, pain is a subjective experience that has to be verbally shared and informed. Your physiotherapist can only truly help you if you partner with her and be an active participant.
2. Clarify any doubts
Patients who do really well with physiotherapy clarify doubts. They are willing to share with the physiotherapist any doubts they may have about their diagnosis, the rehabilitation process in getting better and the possible outcomes. This willingness to be open and clarify any incoherence they may be having, is important in helping them with the process of getting better.
3. Address any emotions that come with the physical pain
Patients who do really well with physiotherapy address any emotions that come with the physical pain. Pain typically is accompanied by emotions ranging from frustration, annoyance to apprehension, anxiety and fear. Fuelling these emotions is a mix of confusion and not knowing what to expect from physiotherapy. This ties in with the need to clarify any doubts, to reduce uncertainty and doing so reduce any apprehension and anxiety. Doing this, calms down your nervous system and also can significantly soothe physical pain. So, talk to your physiotherapist and address any emotions such as apprehension, anxiety and frustration you may have about getting better.
4. Share your goals and expectations
Patients who do really well with physiotherapy share their goals and expectations. This includes sharing what you expect to get from these sessions, including your goals and time frame. This opens up the conversation on whether these expectations are realistic based on the time frame given. This also gives your physiotherapist a chance to explain what would work better and come to a common consensus and time frame.
Partnering with your physiotherapist will give you the best outcomes. Be an active participant, clarify any doubts, share your goals and expectations, and work with her to address any emotions that is stopping you from getting better.
This article is first published in BodyMAP.
About the author
Adele Ang is a registered physiotherapist, a pain coach and the founder of Bodymap Pte Ltd. She created the Bodymap Pain-Coaching Systems (BPS) which combines physiotherapy with pain coaching to provide a complete and holistic approach to help people with persistent, ongoing pain.