-by Brad Zwart, DPT, OCS
“I’m afraid if I pick up something heavy I’ll hurt my back” or “ I avoid stairs because my knees hurt.” These are common statements we hear at the Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy Department at Orange City Area Health System. Patients are often scared of an activity or movement. They believe it will cause further damage to the tissues of their body, where they have had pain or are currently experiencing pain.
As physical therapists and occupational therapists we listen to your story intently. We consider information from other medical professionals you may have received, and help you start to write the next part of your story. We do this in a way that gives you hope and confidence in your body’s ability to heal and build strength. This will help you gain robustness and resilience, so that you are able to do the things you need and want to do.
An example of this is a patient who shared their story with me, noting how he was afraid that he’d make his problem worse if he lifted heavy things or participated in the hobby he loved. He described his back as degenerating, and showed me a picture of his MRI he had stored on his phone, showing degenerative changes in his spine. I then helped him start gaining confidence by sharing that many people his age would have MRI’s like this, and not be experiencing pain. I related that the way he described his current activity level, his pain, and the physical exam I performed on him, didn’t match what his MRI suggested his problem would act like. After this I prescribed an activity and exercise based program for him to help him gain confidence and strength. I taught him a few specific exercises, practiced a few repetitions of his hobby and gave him instructions in how to slowly increase this. We discussed how pain can often be a false warning, and gave him strategies on how to address this. At the end of the session I asked him what he was noticing and he said that he felt hopeful in the ability to get back to doing the things he has been avoiding.
Far more important than the exact exercises I prescribed, were some less obvious factors that increased his robustness and resilience to return to the things he wanted and needed to do. This patient was great at sharing his story with me. He was also open to learning things about his body that were different than the ways he was thinking, such as an MRI with degenerative changes doesn’t mean you have to be experiencing pain. He was willing to stay active, to slowly return to the things he wanted to do, and accepting that there are ups and downs on the rehabilitation path. This patient and I formed a great therapeutic alliance which enhanced his recovery.
If you’re ready to write a new chapter in your story that’s full of hope and confidence in the way you move and function, so that you can do the things you want and need to do, see a physical therapist or occupational therapist at Orange City Area Health System.