We All Have a Story . . . What is Yours?
By Kristin Anderson, PT, DPT, OCS, CLT
At Physical Therapy Specialists, we pride ourselves in taking the time to get to know you and your story. We do this because we have a genuine interest in who you are! What’s more, listening to your story affords us the knowledge to be the most successful in your treatment outcomes. It helps us effectively treat you as a whole person and not just your pelvis or hip, for example.
Did you know that, on average, 75% of medical diagnoses can be made solely based on what you as a patient tell us? (Lown 1999) When you tell us things like it hurts when I sit but not when I stand, we are directed down a path towards one diagnosis versus another. Your words carry weight and we want you to know that!
We start your story from the beginning, and we may mean the VERY beginning. Previous injuries are all important and possibly key factors in understanding your body and your current problems. These injuries can guide us in knowing where the potential twists and turns in your system started. Next, we want to take the time to understand your symptoms. When did the symptoms start? How long do they last? What aggravates the symptoms or relieves them?
These factors allow us to understand what you are experiencing and how different symptoms might be related to one another. Pain is extremely complex and unique to all of us making it difficult and challenging to describe. The more detailed and specific you can get, the more we can home in on what is causing your pain. We trust your ability to know your body and want to hear what your body is telling you. This can give us the tools to quickly assess your symptoms as well as give you an understanding of realistic outcomes for your treatment.
We also want to take the time to get to know how this is impacting your life. Sometimes the simplest things in life give us the most meaning. What has meaning to you that you cannot do right now or cannot do as well as you would like? How has this affected your quality of life? NOTHING is more important than bringing quality back to your life! If you cannot play with your child, get dressed to go to work or perform a hobby we want to know!
When we know what has meaning for you, then we can work with you to frame your goals for physical therapy treatment. We will break down the task for you and then work on those parts of the task. For example, maybe you want to get down on the floor to play with your kids. First, we need to look at how you are lowering yourself to the ground and work on the muscles and joints that help you to do this. Then, we would look at which muscles and joints are affecting your ability to sit without pain. Finally, we take the parts of the task and put them back together so you can get down on the floor and play with your kids!
Goals are personal and individual. As a clinician, we can sometimes assume what a person wants. But, to gain perspective on how to start and manage your treatment we need to hear from you! I had a client with pelvic pain which persisted for 10 years, her entire marriage. She had pain with women’s wellness exams and intercourse with her husband. I assumed that pain free intercourse was her main goal. While this was important for her and something we addressed later, she soon told me to sit in a car for 2 hours with her husband was her number one priority. For her, to be able to sit in the car and go up to the mountains with her husband meant they could finally spend quality time together and start to mend their relationship. I applauded her for her self-reflection and her ability to tell me about this. Please don’t be afraid to let us know what is important to you!
When you come in for your initial evaluation, we spend time listening to your story and establishing goals in order to set the tone for your treatment. Please know that these goals can change as we move down the path of healing. Always feel free to discuss any changes in meaningful tasks or goals with your physical therapist! It is vitally important for us to take the time to get to know you! As you can see YOU are important, and your story is important too!
Lown, B. The Lost Art of Healing: Practicing Compassion in Medicine. New York: Ballantine Books; 1999.