Medically Reviewed by: Brad Seger, PT, DPT, CSCS
You may have heard the maxim, “Giving someone a fish feeds them for a day, but teaching someone to fish feeds them for a lifetime.”
This truth is applicable to many areas of life, including the physical therapy clinic. Those who get the most from their physical therapy (PT) visit are taught to fish rather than just being given a fish.
As with the maxim, “learning” requires work by both parties. This article will provide some tips on how you can maximize your results.
Your first day in PT begins with an initial evaluation or physical exam. For chronic and acute non-surgical conditions, the more details you share with your therapist the better your therapist can customize your therapy. Most people present come to us, because they have pain. Help us by making mental note of where and when the pain occurs. Responding with “everything makes it hurt” won’t help us help you. Often times there will be special positions or movements that improve your condition.
Keep an open mind when it comes to your condition. The site of pain may not be the location in your body causing pain. Don’t be surprised if you come in for shoulder or knee pain and we begin to treat your neck or hip first.
As for the actual treatments, the most important take-away from your session is the teaching you receive. PT is not something you just come in, turn your mind off and do for 45-60 minutes twice a week.
The value in what we do is teaching you WHY you are having pain, WHAT you can specifically do to get rid of it and HOW to keep it from coming back. It’s especially important for us to explain what you should be feeling during corrective actions so you can tell if the appropriate muscle patterns are working, rather than compensating in a way that most likely led to your condition or pain. The more awareness you gain from focusing on how your body’s moving and what’s working, the less likely your condition will return in the future.
As you would with any other health care provider, it’s important to ask questions about what is going on and how you can most efficiently fix it. We’ll give you instruction on what you should be doing at home, whether it is exercises, activity modifications or other techniques to enhance your results. These will most likely be the same items we worked on during your session. So, the more closely you paid attention to what we were doing, the easier it will be for you at home.
Physical therapy is not mindless exercise. It’s work for your mind and your body. People, who improve most quickly, are those who take ownership of their condition and are fully engaged in their physical therapy.