Physical Therapy is an incredible profession allowing our Boulder Physical Therapy and Lafayette Physical Therapy clinicians to help patients achieve their goals of decreased symptoms, improved function, and a better quality of life without the use of drugs or surgery. After 20 years in the field I have seen many patients achieve goals they didn’t think were possible before PT utilizing the common interventions such as education, manual therapy, and of course, exercise. If you asked me what prevents other patients from not achieving their goals the most common answer would be not placing enough emphasis in the right area at the right time.
Early in your plan of care the Physical Therapist is tasked with three main responsibilities including determining the source of your symptoms, determining any contributing impairments (loss of strength or mobility, gait analysis), and coordinating any required referrals to outside specialists. This often can be done in a single visit but there are other times where cases unfold over time and adjustments need to be made in these three categories based on a patient’s response to the first couple of treatments. Patients who place too much emphasis on their home exercise program and not their in person visits miss an opportunity to have the most effective and efficient recovery. If a home exercise program alone was enough early on you could find the answer on the internet. Instead, the correct “recipe” for recovery including what to do, not to do, how much to do it, and what else is needed for recovery takes time to develop.
Patients should look to switch the emphasis once these three aforementioned categories are established with their PT and their recovery is well on its’ way. As the saying goes, if I had a dollar for every patient who stopped their home exercise program once they were feeling better. This is a common mistake. Pain is a great motivator to seek diagnosis, treatment, and continue an established self treatment like the home exercise program. Allow pain is improved, function is rarely restored early on with some patients feeling better because they are performing less of their desired activities. As patients ramp up their favorite activities the home program becomes critical to continue to build function, remodel injured tissues, and restore patients back to 100%. Less frequent follow up appointments are usually necessary to adjust this final phase of the recovery and ensure each patients needs are being met.