There are two major factors when it comes to getting the most out of physiotherapy. The first is a good physiotherapist, and the second is a good patient. I like to think I can offer you good physiotherapy — so here’s a seven-point guide to being a star patient!
1. Dress appropriately
Be aware that I may need you to strip down to your underwear: please make sure it is clean and that you will still be decently covered when you remove your outer clothing. As a young physiotherapist, I worked with the Royal Marines on exercise in Norway. I learned very quickly to ask whether they were wearing underwear before asking them to undress: Commando isn’t so much a name to those boys, as a way of life!
Ladies, if you are coming in with an upper back, shoulder or neck problem, I may need access to the middle of your back while you’re lying face down — this is easier if your bra can be unclipped at the back; crop-top style sports bras can be a nuisance. If you feel uncomfortable wearing just pants, then please do bring some shorts.
2. Be on time
Try to be on time for your session, and to have completed any paperwork before you come in. The assessment is ninety minutes long, which sounds like ages, but I promise: we have a lot to get through in that time!
3. Give us plenty of notice if you need to rearrange your appointment
I hate having to charge people for cancelled appointments; but if you do cancel your appointment with less than 24 hours’ notice, you really do have to pay for it. This is one of the things you sign up to, at your first treatment session, and it’s in the first e-mail we send you. Health insurers won’t cover that charge — it’s down to you. So please help us to not have to charge you, by giving us as much notice as possible. That way we’ll be able to give the appointment to someone else, who will be as pleased with you as we will be!
4. Don’t hide the truth
When I go through the initial assessment, we have to ask you questions about your medical history and medication. Please don’t assume that other problems are irrelevant, or that we don’t need to know about what drugs you’re taking — I do! For example, if you have back pain, I may ask questions about your bladder and bowel function and sexual function. It’s important to answer these questions truthfully as problems in these areas can indicate specific areas of spinal damage. Similarly, medication such as antidepressants or blood pressure tablets can affect your ability to feel pain and your balance. There’s a reason I ask the questions we ask — and if you’re not sure what the reason may be, please let us know and I’ll explain — and remember that everything you say is in confidence.
5. Don’t try to massage my ego
While I’m treating you, I’m “listening” to a combination of your voice and your body (which I “listen” to using my hands). But I’m not psychic, so if I do some treatment and for any reason it doesn’t help you, or if you feel I’ve hit the wrong spot, please don’t pretend you can feel a huge difference — I’m here to help you, not to build up my personal ego! If you tell me when something’s not working, I can work to change it, and do something that will help. And if you tell me when something is really working for you, I’ll probably do it some more!
6. Do your exercises — or at least be honest!
At the end of the session, I’ll usually give you a few exercises to help you continue to move forward at home. Please do them! I find it amazing how many people don’t do anything to help themselves between sessions, and yet they still expect to make fast progress. My job is to help you to recover, not to force your body to recover despite your best efforts to hold us back.
But if you haven’t had time to do your homework, please be honest with me and don’t pretend you have. If I see you haven’t made the progress we expect, but you tell me that you’ve done your homework religiously, I may get unnecessarily confused. If you don’t respond to one exercise, I will do my best to work out why, and to give you different exercises. But if you haven’t responded to the exercise purely because you haven’t done it — then I may be wasting time trying to think of something else.
7. Tell your friends how fantastic we are
If I’ve been able to help you with your problems, there’s a fair chance I’ll be able to help your best friend, your mum, or the chap at the next desk. So be generous and spread the word.