Be a Good Physical Therapy Patient
People become sick in all kinds of way and have to see doctors all the time. I often see patients who cannot get out of their own ways. I have worked in the medical field for over 30 years in many capacities. Most of my direct contact with patients has come as an X-ray Technician Assistant, and as a Marketing Administrator of New York Medical Services.
From my vantage point I see many people who want to get better, but don’t actually do what is necessary to get better. From a physical therapy perspective you as a patient have to be proactive. That includes:
- Following your doctor’s instructions.
- Having dialogue with your doctor, and physical therapist.
- Doing exercises at home/following your health provider’s regimen (ex: use cold compress on your knee daily for 20 minutes.)
- Being your own advocate.
Following Your Doctor’s Instructions
Following your doctor’s instructions is very simple. If your doctor prescribes physical therapy 3 times a week, then you need to go to therapy 3 times a week. How can you do this? Well one way is to find a physical therapy office within 3 miles from your home. The closer to your home the better for you. When people call me and are willing to go to one of our locations a distance from their home, I tell them to find another physical therapist office closer to their home. It’s not that I don’t want their business. It’s because I know that the client will stop treating or hardly ever treat due to the distance. Let’s face it, seeing a doctor or medical professional is not something that we want to do, it’s something that we have to do. So when it becomes a hassle to go to therapy, you often find yourself not wanting to go. I have had these issue myself, so I understand. When you don’t go for treatment you impede your healing progress.
The best thing is to find a qualified physical therapist as close to your home as possible, that way, you give yourself the best possibility for sucess. I also suggest that you go in the morning if your schedule allows. Going in the morning solves several problems: 1) when you go for treatment in the morning you have already accomplished your task and you are not spending the day dreading going there. It’s already done by the afternoon, 2) there are less people going in the morning. If your office provides transportation like we do, then less can wrong with getting you to the office such as traffic, or a host of other people who are waiting for transportation as well. Let’s face it, we all hate waiting for cars when we have to go somewhere. Call the night before to ensure that you are already on the transportation list for the next day. When you plan your days in advance you will find less stress in your life and you will get more accomplished in life.
Have Dialogue with Your Doctor and Physical Therapist
It is important to have an open dialogue with your doctor, and physical therapist. I find a lot of people will continue to have pain and not express that with the doctor; or they may have a problem with their shoulder and the doctor is not addressing the issue appropriately. Let the doctor know so she/he can schedule an x-ray or MRI or other test for your problem. Be vigilant about your health.
Also talk to your physical therapist if you feel the treatment they are administering isn’t helping you enough; ask them to do more for your problem area. Your physical therapist can’t read minds, so tell them what you need. The more you talk to them the better your relationship will be.
Follow Your Physical Therapist’s Instructions
Doctors will provide instructions for patients to follow when they are at home such as elevate your injured leg above your heart (that’s to help with the blood flow to your leg, to prevent swelling and to help speed up the healing process). They will prescribe equipment like an electric stimulation machine for you to use at home. The electric stimulator helps your muscles contract, and brings blood flow to the injured area. Use it. If it’s good enough for professional athletes, then it’s good enough for you.
Consequently, your physical therapist may assign certain exercises to help heal your back, knee, or shoulder. Take a few minutes a day and follow your physical therapist’s instructions. Trust me this will speed up your healing process.
Be Your Own Advocate
Lastly be your own advocate. That means to fight for yourself as a patient. Insurance only allows a small window of time for you to get service for your ailments. Make use of your time wisely. If you feel that you are experiencing headaches weeks after you hit your head on a hard surface, then ask the doctor for the appropriate test (cat-scan) for your ailment. If you feel that the doctor is not addressing your needs, then look for another doctor. You only have a short window for insurance coverage so you must be proactive and proficient in your treatment
Remember this is your body. Nobody knows it better than you. You can make your experience a better one by 1)listening to your doctor/physical therapist’s instructions, 2) having dialogue with your doctor/physical therapist, 3) following your doctor/physical therapist’s directions for home, and 4) being your own advocate.