If there is one thing this family knows about, it’s physical therapy. For the past ten years, almost every year, at least one of us has been in physical therapy. Why? You name it! Sprained ankles, shoulder injuries, knee injuries, wrist injuries and not to mention knee surgeries, shoulder surgeries, etc. It’s crazy! That’s what happens when you live in a family of hardcore athletes and two people who have EDS. Currently, two of us are in physical therapy, Emily for her wrist and myself. I’m still at it, rehabbing my knees post surgery! Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about physical therapy and working with your physical therapist and the doctors. Hopefully what I’ve learned and continue to learn will help you too.
First off, if you are able to pick where you want to go for physical therapy, ask friends and family for recommendations. Don’t be afraid to ask the doctor who they recommend and if there is a particular physical therapist they like. Not all therapists are created equal. Some are better with knees, some have a better understanding of your injury or illness. If you can’t go to certain place due to insurance or money, don’t be afraid to speak up. Our orthopedist would love it if we could go to the physical therapists located in his office but due to insurance, we can’t. So, he told us exactly who to see at the place we can go to. He can still see their notes so he knows exactly what they’re doing and makes recommendations to them.
Be on time. Better yet, be a little early. Better that you have to wait for them than to waste your appointment time. If you are late, you lose part of your time and that causes you not to be able to get the full benefit of your appointment. They may have to rush you through workouts or skip some workouts altogether and that’s not going to help you any.
Make the most of your time while you are there. Work hard and don’t be a slacker. In other words, don’t be lazy. You are there to make progress. Not sure if you’re doing something right? Ask! Is the exercise too easy? Tell them! Let them know at the beginning of the session if you are in any pain and be honest. They can modify your workout and may even have tools to help with your pain. If an exercise is painful, let them know. It’s one thing to feel like you’re working out and another to be in pain. Pain is not always a good thing. Be honest at the end of your session, too and tell them if you are feeling any pain. Physical therapists are there to help you get back to your best self, but you have to do your part.
Do your workouts at home! I can not tell you the difference this will make. It’s not always easy finding the time and we all forget, but listen to your physical therapist and do them. It will shorten the number of visits and save you money in the long run. You will get stronger quicker and hopefully heal quicker and you will start a habit of working out if you don’t already have one. If you don’t have the equipment they would like for you to have, be honest and tell them. Most of the time they will have a way that you can modify the workouts to get the same results. Some of the equipment can be really inexpensive, for example, leg/wrist weights. I purchased mine at 5 Below. Matter of fact, I’ve purchased several things there that are exactly the same as what we’ve used in physical therapy.
Be honest with your doctor at follow-up appointments about how your rehab is going. He or she may want your physical therapist to work on certain muscle groups or change your workouts. When we realized my IT bands were causing the largest part of my pain, we concentrated on getting them to release. My ortho sent notes to my physical therapist to use their tools on my IT bands, along with stretches for them and it has made all the difference in my recovery. For my daughter, the ortho was able to order specialized treatments for her wrist.
Be honest with your physical therapist. If you do not think you are progressing, or that physical therapy is not helping, or even making your symptoms worse, let them know and your doctor. Sometimes, it just doesn’t work for whatever reason. We had a physical therapist once that was doing the wrong exercises for my daughter after her knee surgery and when the orthopedist found out, he pulled her out and gave us a home workout plan. Recently, she was in physical therapy for her wrist and after about two months of trying exercises and different treatments, we realized it seemed to be making her pain much worse. We were honest with the physical therapist and her doctor and now she is being sent to a hand specialist. Sometimes it’s just time to move on to the next level. This was not the fault of the therapist, it just wasn’t working and that’s ok.
It’s ok to ask about your progress. I do it all the time and it’s great to know how far you’ve come, where you are and where you need to be. I love goals! It gives you something to work towards. It’s ok to get discouraged and it’s ok to let your physical therapist know. They can be great cheerleaders! Knee rehab was much harder and painful than I anticipated, and at times I was very frustrated, but my physical therapists were great encouragers.
It’s ok to rotate between therapists. I have three that I rotate between and they are great! They all work together but it’s neat because each one has different ideas and each one pushes me differently. If you find that a therapist isn’t working for you, switch! Don’t be afraid to offend them. This is your time and your health and you are the one paying for the service. Switch until you find one that works for you and hold on the ones that do!
Hopefully, these suggestions will help you get the most out of your physical therapy. Do you have any suggestions that have helped you? I’d love to hear them!