There are common negative patterns of behavior that we see regularly in people visiting us for treatment. It is important to recognize and subdue these tendencies to allow for complete recovery and return to function without recurrence. The following may help you identify some of these destructive behaviors and open up a world of better health and well-being.
The vast majority of people who come to Physical/Occupational Therapy come to us because they are experiencing pain. Despite moderate to severe motion or mobility limitations without pain, some will not seek treatment until pain occurs because, without pain, they believe the problem is not significant. Many people who experience minor or moderate pain for the first time, or have had similar pain spontaneously resolve in the past often procrastinate seeking treatment in the hope the pain will just go away.
It is important to note up front that for most orthopedic conditions it is essential to seek care when the problem is acute. Therapists can not only guide you through strengthening and return to activity, but we have many methods of pain-control we can employ to allow quicker return to more active training. Along similar lines, if you notice a new, non-painful limitation or limitation with only slight pain, it is often better to seek assessment to head the issue off rather than wait for it to resolve on its own or become more painful.
Injuries heal in phases, usually with a steady progression, but not all pain is classified as an “injury”. We as therapists tend to define injury as damage to tissue. Pain and limitation can occur in the absence of muscle, tendon or ligament damage. Pain may be resolved with as little as one treatment, but the cause of the initial pain usually requires closer attention to avoid further issues. Once in treatment and pain starts to resolve there are new considerations. The decrease or absence of pain does not always indicate a full return to functional health. There is a very common tendency among patients when pain starts to reduce significantly for the first time to jump right back into physically stressful activities. Most often this behavior results in return or worsening of the original pain and dysfunction. When improvements become noticeable, seek advice on how to return to activity from your therapist. A gradual return to even the smallest of repetitive activity in both intensity and duration will allow your system to adapt more effectively and avoid further issue. This can be frustrating, but we often try to put it in perspective with a statement such as “It’s better to go slow for a couple of weeks than spend another 3 months in rehabilitation.” A little forethought and planning goes a long way in recovery.
Seeing people for more than one course of treatment for the same condition due to premature cessation of treatment or lack of continued attention to an issue (i.e. not continuing prescribed exercise) after pain resolution has been achieved is less than ideal. Your therapist will develop an initial and continuing plan of care for you and work with you to meet your goals. If you feel your progress is lagging or your are pushing too hard, communicate your concerns to your therapist.
In summation, be conscientious, be diligent, be smart, listen to your body and your therapist. We want you to be well just as much as you do.