Effective as online physiotherapy is turning out to be for many patients, over the past few weeks, the rules have been relaxed slightly, and I’ve been able to see a few patients in their own homes, always having tried online first, and then agreed with the patient that the potential benefits of treatment outweigh the risks. I’ve written about the procedure here, and was interviewed about it for Patient UK here. But what’s it like for a patient to receive physio at home? I asked one of my patients, and she kindly agreed to answer a few questions, and has since agreed to let me post her incredible review, which went way above and beyond my request!
Why did you want to see me rather than any other physio?
I would always want to see Nell rather than any other physio! We have a longstanding relationship during which she has got to know and understand the way in which my body and my mind (neither of which is particularly flexible!) work, and interact in often unhelpful ways. A collaborative, trusting relationship is essential for physiotherapy to be effective, and this was established from the word go. We have established a unique and very precious therapeutic relationship which feels like the physical – gold standard – equivalent of psychoanalysis!
When I first saw Nell, over 10 years ago, I was crippled with back pain in the wake of a back injury that had left me in constant and debilitating pain for about two and half years. I had consulted endless physiotherapists and osteopaths and spent a fortune on a spinal injection, but nothing seemed to help. I was wracked with pain and consumed with the despairing conviction that nothing would ever change. Meeting Nell was life changing experience. I was aware from the moment I met her that I was in the presence of a warm, highly skilled, very positive spirit that was clearly not going to be defeated!
Nell’s very warm and relaxed approach put me at ease from the start, and by the time we arrived in her consulting room, she had already noted that the defensive, clenched, crab-like way in which I moved was exacerbating my problems. It was obvious from the word go that she was an exceptional practitioner. She proceeded to assess my entire body from top to bottom with the sort of focused, learned skill and fascination that I hadn’t encountered before. As my anxieties and suspicions gradually diminished so did the pain. I found myself handing my body over to this extraordinary woman in a way that has not been possible with other clinicians.
During that first consultation with Nell, what was supposed to be a one hour assessment developed into two hours of a 5 star, bespoke hands-on treatment that is her hallmark. She encouraged, cajoled and instructed my back (and my mind) to become just slightly more open and flexible. It was a miraculous encounter! I suddenly believed that with regular treatment, my back would improve – and it did!
Most memorable for me when that first session ended all those years ago, was the moment she told me with absolute confidence that she was going to teach me to bend over, reach down and touch the floor. I looked at her with astonishment. I couldn’t lean forward to pick up a coffee cup off a table without my back going into painful spasms. Bending over and touching the floor felt as unlikely and impossible as climbing Mount Everest! And yet, with Nell’s guidance I bent over and touched the floor! It was one of the most exhilarating and liberating moments of my life, demonstrating the importance of challenging an over vigilant, suspicious mind that often urges me to avoid the very things that will help me get better, and to do things that make things worse!
What has impressed me over the years is Nell’s knowledge and understanding of the human body, and its complicated interactions with the human brain! She is clearly fascinated by her work, and is on an endless quest to learn and develop as a clinician, and to share her ever expanding knowledge and experience with others – including her patients. Her endless thirst to learn – and to teach – to share her skills, and to collaborate with others in ways that bring out the best in everybody – including her patients – makes her a truly exceptional clinician.
How has treatment with me made a difference to you?
Had I not found Nell all those years ago, I believe that I would by now be totally incapacitated. As it is, our initial 12 sessions resulted in her reducing the twist in my spine, increasing my mobility and significantly reducing the pain. Nell has continued to treat me regularly over the years when I experience occasional flare ups in my back (usually triggered by high levels of stress) and she is always my first port of call in a crisis. Having a practitioner who knows my history and my body – and my mind – is a gift beyond compare, and means that when new problems emerge – which at my age (66) they are very likely to do – I know that she will find a way to resolve them.
Nell has always been extraordinarily generous and endlessly available over the years between sessions. I have emailed her from holiday in Spain, and received detailed instructions on how to treat myself, and I have rung in a panic in the wake of an injury. Just hearing her calming, reassuring voice and advice will usually tide me over until I am able to see her. I rely on her, and she empowers me.
Given the option, would you prefer to see me at your home or in my clinic – and why?
When I recently incapacitated myself by pulling the muscles in my hamstrings, I was in despair. The only thing keeping me emotionally afloat during the past very stressful few years, and particularly during the advent of the coronavirus and the lockdown, was long daily walks on the Heath. Suddenly I found it impossible to move without a deep, debilitating nerve pain that seemed to penetrate through all the muscles, tendons, ligaments and nerves in the back of my legs into my bones. I was completely distraught! We were in lockdown! Physio was impossible!
Nonetheless I contacted Nell for advice. She was her usual containing self on the phone, and I immediately felt more hopeful. Nonetheless, I cried with relief when she decided that I would benefit from a home visit. When I saw her at our front door, with her treatment couch, it was like an angel arriving at my front door! Apart from the fact that being seen at home obviated the need for an often painful and challenging journey to – and from – her consulting room, having her undivided and caring attention for such a protracted period of time in my own home was like a dream come true. As with my very first consultation, there was an extraordinary timelessness to the work which felt incredibly healing. There was no sense of a ticking clock, or another patient anxiously waiting for her attention or of staff wanting her to resolve administrative or clinical issues – there was just her and me in a wondrous therapeutic bubble! I found myself immersed in the most soothing, containing, reassuring hands-on care imaginable.
Furthermore, having Nell physically in a space in which I have been doing the exercises she has recommended over many years imbued it with her reassuring, containing presence long after she left. She fitted into our house with the same sort of ease and warmth with which she gets into my mind and my body. I felt crushed and hopeless and despairing before she arrived, full of hope when she left. (My husband observed that I looked 10 years younger after the treatment.) The fact that she was prepared to travel all that way to treat me made me feel so much better about myself. I could hardly believe that I deserved such astonishing care.
Human touch is such an important way to reassure, and it has been such very short supply during the coronavirus, so the hands-on treatment felt just incredible. Furthermore, seeing Nell is always an education. Her learned and compassionate analysis of what had led to the injury (high levels of stress and shallow breathing had put me into continuous flight or fight mode which had caused muscles to contract and triggered a flare up of my back injury) was both fascinating and empowering. She taught me how to breathe in ways that reduced my stress levels, and increased both physical and mental flexibility. She demonstrated this when – towards the end of our bountiful session – she told me I could sit on a chair and touch the floor with my hands, I looked at her with horror and announced that this was, quite simply, impossible! But with her gentle guidance and encouragement – and focused breathing – I was able to do just that!
And when she had finished the hands-on treatment, she took me through the exercises I needed to do to facilitate the healing process. First she demonstrated the exercises herself, then she encouraged me to practice them, and finally she ensured I had relevant videos as much needed reminders and prompts. Seeing her in my home enabled me to internalise the care she provided in a way that previously sometimes felt more difficult, and encouraged me to be much more disciplined and focused about following her instructions.
I am still somewhat blown away by such a lengthy and beautiful review which was so much more than I’d asked for! And I’m incredibly grateful to my lovely patient for taking the time to craft this for me. Being told I can have this sort of effect on someone’s life is pretty amazing. I can’t promise to have this level of effect on everyone, but I do try to do my best for every patient, whether that’s online (as it has to be right now, at least initially) or face to face.
So if that’s what you’re looking for, then please do contact my team on 0207 175 0150 and let me do my best to help you.