This year my doctor prescribed physical therapy to treat my achy, cranky joints and muscles. Since March I’ve had several visits to the physical therapist’s. In the process I’m learning: a different mindset, to cooperate with and respect my body better, and the ways regulated motion (stretches, using weights) can help me live better and more pain-free.
- “No pain, no gain” is not the motto of the physical therapists. The therapists don’t want you to push through pain; your muscles will tire and there is a greater chance of more injury; stop just before the point of pain. You want the point of stretch, but not to the point where it hurts.
- When doing exercises and stretches if you have to stop and rest, do so. For example, if you are supposed to do two sets of 10 reps (repetitions), but you have to stop after just 5, that’s OK. Rest, take a break, do them in sets of 5. You can break it down to four sets of 5, instead of two sets of 10.
- Your attitude towards pain and physical therapy is just as important as the physical therapy itself. You need to be as confident as possible.
- Be patient with your body and the process of healing. It takes time, and this varies with each person.
- You can work for a long time and it seems as though nothing is getting better. Don’t buy into that sneaky voice of discouragement. Get tough and keep on going, anyway. One day when you think nothing has changed, the therapist will say, “Your flexibility is improving”.
- Strength comes last in an injured part, but it will come.
- The physical therapy place is a “no judgment zone”; no one is pointing the finger at you and how few reps you managed, how long it took you to do them, or how you had to ask for help on a particular machine, again. Everybody’s in the same boat–focusing on getting stronger. No one in physical therapy can claim to be a super-athlete.
- Clients encourage one another, and when one client rehabs enough to be released from therapy, this gives a boost to others still working to reach that point.
- Physical therapy is a hopeful place. Doctors tell you what’s wrong; physical therapists tell you where you are strong, where your flexibility improved, where your range of motion is normal– in other words, what’s right. Yes, they do say things like, “Well, those muscles are a bit on the weak side. But there’s exercises we can do to strengthen them.” The therapists emphasize the positive. Most of the time I walk out of PT feeling more hopeful about my situation. Rather than being in despair about my body, I believe something can be done.
- One part of the body affects another. If one muscle is weak and can’t do its job, another muscle has to work harder. Eventually the hard-working muscle may develop weakness, and then other muscles and probably joints get involved. Then you wonder why you hurt.
- Physical therapists are detail-oriented–something I didn’t realize until this time around. They take measurements in their evaluations and plan each person’s therapy course with those measurements, along with the comments the client makes, in mind. Each stretch, each exercise, is selected to address the particular problem the client has. Therapists have to know how the body parts interact, and what happens when a part is not acting as it should.
- Physical therapy is a participatory time. Unlike going to the doctor and listening to him or her explain your condition, showing up for physical therapy requires action on your part. To get the most benefit, take time to do recommended stretches at home. (I’ve been known to get some stretches in while waiting for supper.)
- To me, physical therapy is counter-culture. The world demands, and often gets, speed. Physical therapy allows time for the healing process, however long that takes. Some things can’t be rushed.
- Physical therapy isn’t a cure and it’s not guaranteed to work for everyone, but for many painful problems it’s worth considering.
BTW: That lady on the stability ball is not me. If I was that flexible, I wouldn’t need physical therapy! 🙂
I need to give credit where credit is due: Most of the information used in this article comes from observing and listening to the physical therapists at the office I go to. Along with their specialized knowledge and ability they offer much patience and compassion.