From time to time I see some of my patients get frustrated during the rehabilitation process. When I ask them why they are frustrated they often tell me “I thought I would be all better in 2-3 sessions”. Unfortunately, physical therapy is not like “Amazon Prime” you are not going to be healed from your ache, pain, or injury in the next 2 days. Physical therapy can be a challenging at times and will take hard work to get back to where you want to be. As a physical therapist, it's my job to get you better but also make sure you go about the journey celebrating the small wins too. Like staring at your garden each day, you often will not "see" any progress, but then you’ll catch yourself noticing little new things such as moving differently because you don’t’ have as much stiffness in a body part you're getting treatment for—this my friend is a huge win, and something that needs to be celebrated!
Often a change in movement pattern with less stiffness or pain is one of the first and MOST important signs of progress in PT, and should be high fived for your early success. Sometimes we need to focus on the small success in the physical therapy process, as those small success can snowball into big gains and accomplishments.
To help you or anyone else out there that is in physical therapy, here are 9 obvious, and not-so-obvious, signs you're actually recovering from your injury.
9 More Obvious Signs You're Recovering
1. Your pain is less frequent and/or less intense.
2. You have less swelling or stiffness
3. You have more range of motion.
4. You feel stronger in the area being treated during your activities
5. Your exercises are easier for you & you can do more of them.
6. Your wound or scar is healing & looks better.
7. Your PT visit frequency has decreased.
8. Your doctor tells you are ahead of the “curve” or lets you know you only need to follow back up with them is something goes wrong.
9. You're able to do more things throughout the day.
9 Not-So-Obvious Signs You're Recovering
1. You're more aware of things that may have been aggravating your symptoms.
2. You make a conscious effort to avoid aggravating motions, habits, or activities. You are working in your “Zone of Success”.
3. You're applying your PT's suggestions.
4. You don't notice your pain or symptoms as often.
5. You're less fearful of movement.
6. You've learned new exercises & ways of moving that better suit you.
7. You feel more in control of your own body.
8. You're motivated to set new goals.
9. You're having fun again.
Celebrate the small wins, as you are truly crushing it “Superstar”!
I constantly tell my patients that they are getting better because they are great clay that I’m able to help mold back into a healthy individual. The truth is that recovery will take discipline and commitment. It's not going to be easy and there will be frustration, but repetition is what triggers change and will catapult you to the success you want and deserve.