Physical therapy can be a long, hard road. Sessions sometimes are painful, whether during the session or afterward. This can mask the good that physical therapy is doing and leave you wondering if it’s really worth it.
Because of this, and other reasons, many people end up discontinuing physical therapy. In fact, only 35% of physical therapy patients follow through with their entire plan of care.
When you’re right in the thick of it, sticking to your physical therapy plan can be difficult. You may feel like you’re feeling a lot of pain and not seeing much improvement to make up for it.
Are you thinking about discontinuing your physical therapy sessions? Let’s talk about common reasons patients have for quitting and how to address them. Maybe you need to modify your approach rather than stop altogether.
Reasons for Discontinuing Physical Therapy
There are several reasons why patients decide to quit coming to their therapy sessions. It hurts. It’s inconvenient. They’re not seeing progress or they feel disillusioned by slow progress. They’ve gotten too busy.
The reality is, often physical therapy hurts before it gets better. Depending on your injury, certain movements will be uncomfortable and downright painful. However, pushing through the pain is necessary to get back proper range of motion and help the injured area heal.
You also get out of physical therapy what you put into it. According to this study, as few as 35% of physical therapy patients actually stick to their home exercise routine. This can be quite detrimental to the success of your treatment plan.
Before you discontinue going to physical therapy altogether, take a moment and review. Are you doing everything you should be to make your physical therapy sessions successful? Physical therapy has a lot of health benefits, but you might not be maximizing those benefits.
Getting More out of Your Physical Therapy Sessions
Your therapist is the expert. They can give you the right exercises to do and teach you how to do them well. They can encourage you along in your journey.
But they can’t force you to get better.
Many patients feel they are getting nothing out of their physical therapy sessions because they really aren’t giving it a chance. A good therapist will notice this and find ways to motivate you. But it boils down to you being willing to put in the effort.
There are a few simple steps you can take to help motivate yourself. Your therapist may have already mentioned some of these. We encourage you to take them to heart before giving up on therapy.
Think of PT as Education, Not Exercise
Your therapist is your teacher, not your personal trainer. While your therapist’s office may look similar to a gym and you may be building strength, the point is not to work out.
You’re learning how to heal from an injury and how to prevent it from happening again. Losing sight of that can decrease the effectiveness of your sessions.
Keep a Journal
Many people get frustrated with physical therapy because they feel they’re not reaching their goals as they expected. However, focusing on how far you still have to go is defeating.
Focus instead on how far you’ve come.
Keep a journal and record everything that you can use as a marker. How you feel, pain levels, range of motion, whatever it is that you are working on during your therapy sessions.
Take time to compare where you are now to where you were a few weeks ago. You might be surprised by how far you’ve come and you didn’t even notice.
Get Feedback From Your Therapist
Even if you don’t keep a journal, or don’t know what to put in it, don’t worry. Your therapist should be keeping track of important metrics like your range of motion and other pertinent data.
A good therapist may notice your disillusionment and show you their data to motivate you. But even if they don’t offer, don’t hesitate to ask them about your progress.
Be Open and Honest With Your Therapist
Your therapist is doing the best they can to work with your body and help it to heal. But they can’t feel what you feel. They don’t know your body as well as you know it.
Be honest with your therapist. Tell them about the pain you feel but also your feelings about therapy.
If you’re not doing your at-home exercises, be honest about it and tell them why. Trust us, they can tell that you’re not doing them anyway so don’t try to dodge the question or lie about it.
It may be that all you need is the right motivation to get back on track. But your therapist isn’t a mindreader, they need your input to know how to coach you.
Last, but not least, you may need to change therapists. A physical therapist may be fantastic at their job, but not the right therapist for you.
You should “click” with your therapist. You should feel comfortable telling them about what’s going on in your body and how you feel about therapy. If they seem impatient with you or if you have reservations about being open with them, you might want to try seeing a different one.
It’s also possible that your therapist simply isn’t a good one. You can and should expect results from proper physical therapy. If you aren’t seeing those results (keep track of them, remember), it might be good to try a therapist with a little bit different approach.
Every person’s body is different and what works for some patients may not work for others.
Before You Throw in the Towel…
Don’t give up on therapy just yet. Before discontinuing physical therapy altogether, try a few of these tips. You might find that by shifting your mindset you can be more positive about your experience and get better results.
You also might need to find a new therapist. Here at ReVITALize Rehab Club, we focus on providing highly individualized care. We encourage your feedback about how you’re feeling and make modifications to your routine based on that information.
Physical therapy can be life-changing…if it’s done right. We can help you make sure that it’s done right. Contact us to schedule a free telephone interview today!
Danh Ngo PT, DPT, OCS, SCS
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Board Certified Specialist in Orthopedic and Sports Medicine
Mind Body Health Results Coach