Have you ever had a sense that the health practitioner telling you what was going on with your body was a little off the mark? Did you suppress that thought and heed their advice, telling yourself “He’s the expert: what do I know?”
Have you ever persisted with a prescribed exercise, even though you suspected it was aggravating your symptoms?
Why didn’t you speak up? Were you afraid of offending the practitioner, or being branded a “difficult” patient? Were you worried you might sound ignorant?
Any therapist worth his salt will welcome questions of any sort - and remember: he/she probably knows a lot less about your field than you do.
I think I speak for most of my colleagues when I say this: physios, chiropractors, osteopaths and the like generally choose a career in this field because we genuinely want to help people. At the same time, we like to be challenged, and what better challenge than the incredibly complex mass of connections, tissues, systems and emotions that is the human body?
Humans have been studying themselves for centuries and we are still only at the tip of the iceberg. So, listen up folks: WE DON’T KNOW EVERYTHING ABOUT YOUR BODY! WE DON’T EVEN KNOW A LOT!!
Physiotherapists know a lot about the structure and function of many of your body systems - the musculoskeletal system in particular - and we know a little about how the brain works. This does not necessarily mean we know your body better than you.
If you go to see a physiotherapist (or other bodyworker), you will get a much better result if you go with the view that the pair of you will work as a team to nut it out together. If your practitioner talks down to you or seems to brush over your story, diving into treatment without hearing you properly, FIND A NEW PRACTITIONER. Arrogance has no place in the realm of health care.
After two decades, I still learn something about the body every day - and each time, I am learning something about the body in the room with me at that moment. A body that is part of a person with a brain and a heart, connected to a whole network of other people, animals, plants, spaces. Part of a community.
Bigger than me. Bigger than them. Most certainly bigger than their left shoulder or lumbar spine.
I think what I’m trying to say is:
Ask the question. Voice the doubt. Challenge me. Please.
4 ways to get the most out of your physiotherapy session:
1. Ask for clarification if there’s anything you don’t understand. If you don’t know why you’ve been asked to do something, you’re much less likely to do it.
2. Voice your concerns if you have reservations about a technique or exercise. If the therapist can’t explain why they are doing something, they’re not giving you 100% of their attention.
3. Do mention that old injury or other niggle you think is irrelevant. It’s all relevant. The more information we have, the better.
4. Tell your story. Anything that has happened to you has happened to your body. This extends beyond physical injuries to personal trauma, stressors and life events.