I happened to treat a particular patient this past Tuesday who is my muse for this post. She is an older woman, between my mom’s age and my grandmother’s age, who initially began being treated 3 months ago for shoulder pain. She says that her shoulder and thoracic spine have been bothering her for the past 5 years. Finally, she thought it was time to start doing something about it over the summer. Unfortunately, for her, she is a very busy women- too busy to come in and see me on a regular basis. As in, she came for 3 visits over the first 6 weeks. On that third visit, I received the always wonderful question that seems to only come from “these” patients, “Why am I not healed?”
Imagine the blank stare on my face. As a physical therapist I hear this question a lot, but it usually comes from patients who:
1. Only came to PT because their doctor told them to
2. Only want hot packs, ultrasound, massage, and stim (HUM-merS for short). Sorry people, you have to go somewhere else to get your hummers
3. Do not do their home exercise program (HEP)
4. Are not used to working hard for results
After having the same old conversation with this patient, we determined that she does not do her HEP, and she has continued to perform activities that cause her constant pain and muscle guarding. Not surprisingly, she has been more consistent with her HEP, her visit scheduling, and her overall adherence to her “plan of care”, and she is feeling much better!
As a young and motivated physical therapist it is my routine to tell all patients what their plan of care will be, what the expected treatment course will be, what I expect of my patients, and also ask what they expect of me. It is my responsibility to make sure my patients get complete honesty, and know what to expect from physical therapy WITH ME. Like all professions, there are some among us who just go through the motions, and I hope to never become one of them.
The point is, and this applies to fitness professionals too, that as a patient/client if you do not put in the work, how can you expect the results? When you’ve been training someone for months and ask “can you show me how you’ve been doing [exercise A]?” and they say “Huh?” personal trainers must have the same feeling. More and more people are expecting immediate results from their personal trainers and physical therapists, and it is our job to let them know that it is the work they put in at home, when we are not there, that truly makes them better. 5 years of shoulder pain and after only 3 visits (1 of which was an evaluation) over 6 weeks my patient expected to be better? Crazy. Seriously guys, Rome wasn’t built in a day.