There is strong research evidence that patient education provided by a health care provider is an important component of a patient’s treatment program. In physiotherapy, education is usually in the form of an explanation to the person of why the pain or injury occurred. Often this can be explained in terms of how the person moves in their daily activities or in their sport, or how they hold their posture. Advice is then given on simple ways to move differently so that the person can return to normal or improved function. Poor sitting posture at the work station, improper bicycle fit, poor running form, and picking up and holding a new baby on the same side of the parent’s body all the time are examples of movement patterns that we may advise on.
Most people come to see us because they have pain somewhere in their body. Even if it is mild, it is still distracting enough to enter their consciousness and make them pick up the phone to make an appointment. Other times, the pain is so bad, and has been around so long, that a person has seen many health care practitioners to try to get to the bottom of their problem.
Pain is a weird thing. It is unpleasant, but that is what makes it so useful. Its purpose is to tell us when things are going wrong or could potentially go wrong. It makes us move differently or behave differently to protect us, so that we can heal after an injury. For example, if your back hurts after a run, you may will not run for a few days or a week. That gives the inflammation time to reduce and the grumpy tissue to settle down. When pain lasts for a long time is when things get more complicated. The nervous system (including the brain) starts to get overly sensitive. It wants to protect us from any more pain. (See our blog post, Even Physios Get Sore). In so doing, we often get fearful of moving in certain ways. If, for example, I hurt my back bending over to pick up my young son, then perhaps I will avoid lifting almost anything for a long time. This type of alteration to our normal behaviour can lead to a person getting out of shape and even more fearful of moving. Hopefully you can see where this is going. A painful experience causes fear of some movement, which causes our bodies to tighten up (physiotherapists and doctors call this a “bracing strategy”). The muscle bracing and the fear, lead to more pain, less exercise and eventually one out-of-shape, sore person.
If you want to read more on this and watch a great Ted Talk on this.
Our job at Pure Form Physiotherapy is to coach you on how to get moving again in a way that feels safe, with minimal pain. As you increase your sense of being able to do things, the pain may reduce. Sometimes it does not, but even in those cases, you should be more effective in your movement and it should be easier to do what you want to do. This is why our motto is “Movement, Function, Well Being”. Once you can have attained better movement, your function in the things you normally do will increase. This leads to life getting back to normal, and an increased sense of well being and happiness.