The Proactive Approach: Helping Your Physical Therapist Help You

Recovering from an injury or illness is never an easy process, but your physical therapist can be a critical guide and ally along the way. Although PTs have the skills and experience necessary to help you restore some or all of your lost function, they don't need to go it alone. By taking a proactive approach, you can help your therapist develop a plan that fits your specific needs.

Of course, knowing how to help your therapist is easier said than done, especially if you've never gone through physical therapy before. These three tips will help you to actively engage with your physical therapy process so that you can return to your life as quickly as possible.

1. Understand Your Unique Challenges

Everyone's journey through physical therapy is unique, but there's more to think about than just your particular recovery needs. Responsibilities such as work and family care can impact your physical therapy plan and recovery time. Understanding the challenges you must face in your day-to-day life is thus just as critical as understanding the challenges you'll encounter while working with your therapist.

During your initial consultation and evaluation, be sure to discuss any issues you're concerned about, no matter how small they may seem. Will you need to climb long flights of stairs to get to work or your house? If you have kids, are you concerned about physically exerting yourself while dealing with them? By bringing these issues up early, your PT can better develop a plan to help you.

2. Provide an Honest Assessment

Your first visit with a physical therapist will typically consist of an examination and a few tests to help them understand your situation. This initial evaluation will include various objective assessments, but they will also ask to provide subjective ratings for pain, physical ability, and so on. These questions help your therapist to understand how they can help you achieve your recovery goals.

Always provide clear, honest answers to these questions. Your therapist wants to help you get back to your life with as little pain as possible, and they are not interested in judging you on your pain tolerance. Downplaying pain or other limitations can potentially prolong your treatment and even cause more damage over the long run.

3. Don't Be Afraid to Speak Up

A good physical therapy program will continuously evolve based on your feedback and progress. If your treatment is too difficult or too painful, it's critical to speak up. Although some discomfort may be unavoidable, your therapist will not want to push you too far or too hard. Letting them know when you're uncomfortable will allow them to adjust your plan as necessary.

Any physical therapy program is a team effort between you and your PT. Becoming an actively engaged team member will provide you with the best chance for long-term success and a quick recovery.