As a runner and former athletic trainer, I really value the importance of physical rehabilitation in my practice. I value this not only for my patients who are runners but also for patients who are recovering from surgery.
Too often, we get caught up in the business of our day-to-day practice and may not realize that patients really need to see a physical therapist. I see this everyday. Frequently, a postsurgical bunion patient will be in for a three-week follow-up visit and I will advise physical therapy. The typical response is, “Do I really have to?” or “Is it really necessary?” My response varies from patient to patient depending on what procedure or surgery he or she had. However, in all actuality, I really think all patients benefit from physical therapy.
The challenge as I see it is presenting physical therapy to your patients in a way that allows them to understand that it is not optional. It is almost an art to convince patients and not as simple as saying, “Well, you have to go.” Patients too often ask to be educated on a program and then do it at home.
I have several problems with this. One, I do not have the time in my practice to spend with patients to educate them effectively on how to properly perform home activities and how often. Two, there are modalities that are influential in aiding the healing process that can really help in swelling and pain reduction, which makes recovery an easier and sometimes faster process.
Finally, it really helps to have someone standing over your patients, holding them accountable for the activities they are performing. Sometimes if pain arises, patients will back off what they are doing because they are afraid of hurting something. This pain could be an expected part of the activity and it helps having a physical therapist there to encourage continued activity. Remember, the physical therapists may have advanced degrees in this field of medicine and can really aid the patient’s recovery. The challenge is getting the patient to realize the importance of this in the recovery process.
I am sure we have all encountered this challenging act of getting our patients to physical therapy. I would love to hear others’ feedback on how they approach this in their practice.