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“How Do I Choose A Physiotherapist That’s Just Right For Me”?

Back Pain, Knee Pain, Neck & Shoulder Pain

That’s a common question…

Yet, whenever I get asked it, I nearly always suspect that the person isn’t really asking that question. No, what I’m really being asked is this:

“Is Physiotherapy even right for someone like me?”….

And to answer them both at the same time, I often like to tell a true story which describes exactly who Physiotherapy is for, what Physiotherapy REALLY does, and shows you how to get the best for your health as a result of going to see one (a good one!).

To do that, I’ll need to introduce you to:

“Andy Vs Mary”

…Which is a concept I came up with to help potential clients of my own Physiotherapy Clinic confirm that they had made the right decision to come and see us, and demonstrate the two different “types” of people who cone looking for help from a Physiotherapist. Something else to note before you read: these are true accounts of what actually happened to Andy and Mary and these two are real people who have both visited my Physiotherapy Clinic.

Both people in the story you’re about to read arrived at our Physiotherapy clinic with “back pain” but, what you’ll soon discover, is that only one of them got the positive outcome from Physiotherapy that they were hoping for – despite having access to the same specialist, skills and knowledge. And please let me make something abundantly clear: there’s nothing inherently “wrong” or “right” with either of these two “types” of people. That’s not what this is about.

It’s just that one “type” of person is much more likely to get a positive outcome by choosing to see a Specialist Physiotherapist than the other and if you’re ever considering going to see one, I want to help you out by showing you the type of “attitude” to have that makes a positive, more healthy outcome, more likely to happen to YOU!

And as you’ll soon see, the “outcome”, as in, the improvement in each person’s back pain, (or lack of in one case), that was made, had more to do with what Andy and Mary “valued” most, rather than the problem they had or how good the Physiotherapist even was.

Andy and Mary, although I’ve changed their names for this story, represent real “flesh and blood” people – and their traits are absolutely real and similar to many people I’ve helped over the years in my own clinic.

So here we go. Please enjoy finding out more about Andy and see for yourself why he didn’t quite get the right outcome he wanted as a result of going to see a Physiotherapist:

Part 1: Here’s Something About “Andy”

Andy is 28 and lives with his parents. He’s a fun guy. Big group of friends and his social life is important to him. He works in his family business, which is going very well and he’s doing well for himself. So he’s never strapped for cash.

If anything, he works so much that he rarely gets a chance to spend the money he is making each month. And because he is still living at home with his parents, there’s often a surplus at the end of each month.

Andy has no financial worries and has no one else to support but himself. He likes to buy clothes and enjoys dining at nice restaurants with his friends on the weekend.

Now, here’s why he needed Physiotherapy: A few years back now Andy hurt his back playing 5-a-side football with his friends. He fell and landed awkwardly and ever since then he’s suffered “on-and-off” with the same back problem.

At first, and as many people choose to do, he just rested it in the hope that it would go away on its own. And of course, with Andy being so young, it did go away! But only for a while. Three months later and he was suffering with it again. Only this time it was a different type of pain.

Much more of a constant, slow burning, constant dull ache that didn’t seem to want to relent. Painkillers would always help. And the odd day off work too would see a spike in his improvement.

The pain wasn’t excruciating, but just enough to worry his concerned Mother. His Mother seriously values her health and that of her family. And she had nagged at him for weeks after it had first happened to go and do something about it.

So anyway, another 6 months went by and Andy was now in constant pain. And lots of it too! His Mother made an appointment for her son to see her Doctor. However, Andy didn’t show up to the appointment because on the day of his scheduled appointment, the pain he had been experiencing was much less. “Result!” Why “waste time” going to see the Doctor if this back pain was all of a sudden showing signs of improvement, after 9 months?

But, Andy’s back pain came back not long after he missed that appointment. Too embarrassed to call up and speak to the Doctor having skipped the appointment last time, he was stuck! But his Mother suggested he go and see a Physiotherapist that she had heard “really good things about.” In fact, she even called in and made the initial appointment for Andy.

But Andy was reluctant and simply because he faced the prospect of having to “pay” to get healthy again.

In reality, money wasn’t a problem for Andy. However, spending the surplus that he has on something that he doesn’t really value, his health, was! But why should he value his health anyway? He’s in his twenties, so any problems are still way off in the distance for him, right?
At least that’s how he sees it. And what would all his “twenty something” friends think about him spending money on something like Physiotherapy? Isn’t Physiotherapy only something you need when you’re older?

And what about his money?

Isn’t now the time to spend your money on good stuff like new clothes, travel, good food…and alcohol? Anyway, Andy arrived (…late) for his first Physiotherapy consultation. He answered a few questions and was pleasantly surprised by the clarity which he got from the Physiotherapist who was helping him.

In less than 20 minutes, he was told exactly what was wrong with the back, he knew why his pain wasn’t likely to go away on its own and was even told precisely what needed to be done to get the pain free lifestyle he was looking for.

Despite this great advice being handed to him on a plate, much to Andy’s dislike, the proposal to fix Andy’s back involved more than one session of Physiotherapy.

But, he reluctantly agreed to go ahead, knowing that his Mother would be annoyed if he didn’t. So he went ahead and scheduled all of the recommended treatment sessions that the Physiotherapist had told him he would need to end his back pain – it had been 9 months now so it was never going to go away!

At the end of the initial consultation and just before he left, the Physiotherapist helping Andy even went on to assure Andy that he had a clear plan to get Andy the positive outcome he was looking for.

But, what happened to Andy was this: he didn’t get the positive outcome that he hoped for…
No, after that first visit, he didn’t show back up to carry on with his treatment plan. The next appointment was cancelled at the last minute and the one after that, Andy just failed to show up completely.

Not long after, we heard from his Mother that he convinced himself that he would be okay with rest, but in reality she told us that the real issue in him showing up for Physiotherapy was that he just doesn’t value his health enough to want to pay to maintain it!

She told us that Andy continues to suffer with his bad back, some 13 months later. He is still looking sharp with his nice clothes and hanging out with his friends on the weekends though!
But his ability to sleep at night? That’s always interrupted by his back pain. His performance at work? Hindered.

Regularly misses days because of his back pain and once missed 3 days. Nights out with his mates? Even more of them, because the alcohol often numbs the pain. 5-a-side football after work?

That’s had to stop! He can’t play that anymore because the pounding from the hard, indoor surface, is just too much for his bad back to cope with. His relief? Painkillers. They’re now his lifeline when things get bad.

Part 2: Here’s Something About Mary

Mary’s “53”. She takes care of her family and house. Her husband and two kids work together at their family business. Mary knows that in order to take care of her family, she must first take care of her own health.

It’s a reflection of who she is and she understands that without her health, she can’t do many of the things that make her happy. She accepts that “no one’s getting any younger” and her big problem since she hit 40, is, as she says: “lots of niggly little injuries” that she just doesn’t know why happen to her or where to start to set about putting them all right!

Mary loves to walk at the Benjakiti Park with a group of like-minded friends early in the morning. In between times, she’s active and will occasionally go for a gentle jog. Like so many people over the age of 40, Mary’s ability to hold on to her physical health has become increasingly difficult in the past few years. But nothing major so far, the things she’d suffered with just seem to be more “inconvenient” than anything and more often than not are things she’s able to learn to live with.

But it got to the point where she wasn’t sure from one day to the next, how she was going to feel. Particularly bad were the days after she’s been particularly active when out walking, or even helping out in the garden. Yet, because these “niggles” were never a problem before, when she was a few years younger, she was confused at first and that initially stopped her from doing anything about it.

Eventually, it was no longer a question of if, but rather a question of when, she would need to ask some question because it’s incredibly important for Mary to be active and on the go and she wouldn’t want to risk that by not doing all that she could to stop it from ever happening. Mary has two grown up children and three grandchildren who she loves to “keep up with” and spend time in the park. She even enjoys the simple things: like getting down and playing on the floor with them. (And, ideally, she likes the thought of being able to get back up WITHOUT a helping hand…)

There’s no way she would ever risk any of that by not doing all that she could to ensure that she can be the one her children turn to should they need a “baby sitter”, or still take part in nice walks in the park with friends. For about two weeks or so, Mary had been noticing increasing pain and stiffness in her lower back. More so than ever before. Yet the pain wasn’t so much the problem. No, the driving force behind her decision to start asking questions is more the fear of losing her active lifestyle and with it, her independence. She hopes to preserve that for as long as possible.

So far, Mary had tried one or two different exercise classes based in a nearby gym, in the hope that this would cure her of all of her “age” type problems (what everyone around her is telling her is causing her troubles…). She even asked a homeopath, tried different exercises she got off the internet, rested, and of course, she’s spoken to her Doctor about it on more than one occasion. But so far he seems to be non-committal and won’t offer a solution to the root cause and only able to offer a different kind of medication each time she visits.

Now, Mary got to a point where she was worried about sustaining her dream lifestyle as a relatively young and active grandmother (still in her early 50’s), over the next few years and beyond. She realised it would no longer a question of “if” but rather a question of when she is stopped completely by her back pain – and so she must act soon! Mary considers herself to be a very health conscious person.

Perhaps a little more so than most other people she knows, and besides, she wants to set a great example to everyone else in her family, showing them all how important it is to be looking after your most prized possession, “your health”! She won’t tolerate ANY wasted days in her life due to pain if she can help it. She understands that time is too precious for that and like she says, “nobody’s getting any younger.” And, under no circumstances, will she risk any form of dependency on the medication route that her Doctor seems to want to keep offering her. See, Mary’s not one for fooling herself – relying upon medication just isn’t her. She’s too “healthy” and “young” to fall into that trap.

And because she didn’t want to rely upon painkillers, she knew Physiotherapy was likely to be her best option – and she’ll do it while she still has her freedom and her ability to do things, is able to go places and before her pain gets significant and forces her to stop. Mary plans to “upgrade” her health and lifestyle and changes her thinking from seeing Physiotherapy as an “expense” to an “asset” – a source of real solid gold health advice that she can come to rely upon whenever she needs a physical push in the right direction, or any concerns answered. See, concerns and worries about health are better out, than in. And she knows that the torment they create is much, much worse than any physical pain she could suffer.

So Mary went to see a Physiotherapist, and then she simply followed the instructions she was given. Not much more to it. She explained that her problem was more stiffness and discomfort, (not so much the pain), and that she was more fearful for the future and what might become of her, if she doesn’t get it looked at sooner rather than later. You could say she was protecting herself from the inevitable, rather than reacting to the inevitable. She asked the Physiotherapist her concerning questions and was given all of the answers that she needed to hear.

Mary even accepted what the Physiotherapist told her from day one. That her back problem wouldn’t be completely “curable” because of the nature of it and she accepted the fact it could happen again in the next couple of years if she didn’t keep up with her exercises (and even if she did!). See, what really mattered to her was that she knew that as of this moment, she was feeling as good as she had done in years and if her back pain ever came on again, she’d be okay because a lot like tooth pain which comes and goes, she’d know who to go and see and that something could be done about it.

After just a few short weeks, Mary left Physiotherapy feeling healthier, living with renewed hope and optimism for the future. She even went one step further than just letting the Physiotherapist do all the hard work for her.

To make absolutely certain she’d done all that she could get the best out of her investment in Physiotherapy, she asked her new a set of home exercises, perfect for her body and her lifestyle goals, that she could be doing on her own in the comfort of her own home, to make her stronger and more flexible, and thus to protect herself from any future pain or stiffness in future.
Mary is logical enough to know that there’s no life long guarantees with anything. But doing it this way, gives her the best possible shot at staying active and mobile NOW while she’s still young enough to enjoy it, and the hope for a future that offers the same lifestyle and freedom of choice.

And for all that in return, she’s happy to pay for it.

= = =

Okay…

So you realised that Mary is Andy’s Mother, right? And what you’ve just read IS based on a true story. I just changed a few of the facts around and switched one of the names. And you know what, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that YOU have already had experience of something like what happened with the very reluctant to try Physiotherapy, “Andy”?

Why? Because it’s the sort of conversation I’ve had many, many times over with concerned parents or partners who just don’t “get” why someone else doesn’t value their health as much as they do.

Now can you see the only difference here in the two outcomes was that Mary valued her health much more highly than Andy? See, Mary gave Physiotherapy a chance to help her keep active and was prepared to invest time and money in her health.

And the chances of YOU having the same positive outcome from ANY Physiotherapist, largely depends upon the value YOU place on your health. If you’re reading this blog article and have come this far, I’d say that it’s likely you value your health highly and that something like Physiotherapy WILL work for you and help keep you active and “on-the-go”, helping you live with less pain and stiffness in your 50’s, 60’s and beyond.

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