Learning Your Way to Better Health

Learning Your Way to Better Health and Wellness!

From the Healing Bridge Physical Therapy

Fall 2004 Newsletter


If you were asked to describe what your physical therapist did with you during your treatment, you might remember the warm ultrasound machine or the joint or muscle manipulation, or the exercises your therapist taught you. How much of your session would you characterize as “education”?

If we asked your therapist this question, you might be surprised to hear how much of what happened during and in-between the tools and techniques of physical therapy would be considered “patient education.” You might also be surprised to discover how important this information and the role of educator is to the success of your program and health.

Along with extensive training in evaluating and treating motion issues, therapists also learn how to communicate effectively with patients and how to evaluate if you’ve learned the skills you need to succeed. This communication includes practicing instruction and feedback-giving skills, a vital link to creating a winning therapist-patient team. Therapists also learn how to recognize different communication and learning styles so they can optimize their teaching style for you. Therapists learn these skills, and many other techniques more commonly associated with the classroom than the clinic, to promote the recovery of their patients. Why is this communication and education training so important? Just like the proverb about teaching a man to fish so he’ll eat for life, good rehab means you become and stay healthier and happier.

As physical therapists, we educate our patients daily about the anatomy and physiology of the body’s structures, body mechanics, principles of movement, good posture, and how to perform exercises safely and correctly. We watch our patients closely and ask questions to get feedback on how our concepts and techniques are being applied.

It’s not enough to tell our patients what we want them to know; ideally our patients will demonstrate the proper technique and concepts in the clinic and put them into practice at home. For example, in the Journal of Orofacial Pain, a recent study on jaw muscle pain reported that patients receiving physical therapy improved 77% if the patient also performed a home rehab program, versus 57% with just clinical treatment.

For many people, college or technical training in a trade is an investment in future success. In the same way, we judge the success of our therapy programs not just on how someone feels during or immediately after treatments, but how they feel months or years later. It’s a delight to see patients outside of the clinic and hear they continue to enjoy healthy, pain-free lives. The time we spent together, fine-tuning their program and explaining why small differences matter, made their home program remain useful!

Patient education is not without its challenges. Today’s healthcare climate encourages streamlined treatments with the expectation that patients will assume responsibility for their recovery process. So what’s the key to a successful treatment program? Your therapist must have the proper training and skills to guide you onto the right path, but the most important component in the healthcare team is you.

Because people tend to support things they’ve helped to create, it’s crucial to the success of your PT program that you understand and participate in setting goals and planning your recovery. One of the most common sources of dissatisfaction with healthcare services (researchers study who gets sued as a barometer of dissatisfaction!) is when patients believe their treatment or procedure has not been adequately explained to them.

This problem should be almost completely preventable: the staff at Healing Bridge takes pride in focusing on education and the time we take to empower you with knowledge. This combination gives you the greatest opportunity to achieve and maintain your goals for recovery.