When you kick off a new project at work, chances are you spend a fair amount of time setting and reviewing goals. These goals help you—and those you’ll be working with—create a clear sense of what you’re looking to achieve and begin to map out a plan of attack. Along with specific goals, you also probably find it helpful to set some key milestones to ensure that you stay on task and to prevent your motivation from waning.
These same principles apply when going to physical therapy for an injury. Communicating what you hope to accomplish during your therapy sessions can help your physical therapist to individualize the treatment plan and design an exercise program that aligns with your goals. The idea is to move from “I’m here because my knee hurts” to “I’d like my knee to feel better so I can get back to
doing X, Y and Z.”
Let’s talk about a concrete example to illustrate goal-setting in action: A father of three ruptures his Achilles tendon while playing a game of pickup basketball after work. When he lands in rehab, he explains to his PT that he’s due to walk his oldest daughter down the aisle at her wedding in a few months. This gives the PT a specific goal—and a timeline—to aim for. Of course, not every patient has a goal tied to such a momentous occasion. It can be as simple as carrying your groceries to your car unassisted or lifting your grandchild into a high chair. Either way, it’s important to have goals—and to communicate them clearly to your physical therapist.
Your PT wants you to get better, but every patient is different. With the right guidance from you, he or she can ensure the program does not unknowingly miss your goals. Only you know precisely what you want to accomplish by seeing a physical therapist. If you have a wrist injury and returning to your knitting hobby is important to you, then be specific! Another patient could come in with the same injury, but have completely different goals.
Proper communication ensures success, which also means you should actively participate in your care. Make communication needs to be a two-way street and speak up at your next session to ensure that your physical therapist knows precisely why you’ve made the appointment, what you hope to accomplish and why it’s
important to you. While this information helps your physical therapist make important decisions about your care, it also helps keep you motivated during therapy.
If you find yourself making an appointment to see a physical therapist for a new injury or a nagging pain, ensure that you prepare in advance. Be prepared to answer this one simple question: What brings you to physical therapy today?