Teach yourself to “feel better soon”

Teach yourself to “feel better soon”

Teach yourself to “feel better soon”

When a friend is under the weather, we say “feel better soon” with the best of intentions. As a physical therapist, I can do more than just wish you feel better (although I do). I can teach you how to feel better soon.

To feel better is a goal of physical therapy. While rehabbing an injury may take time, I can help you begin feeling better right away by helping you better understand what’s happening. Not only is knowledge power, as the aphorism goes, but knowledge can be reassuring and comforting too.

Don’t underestimate the value of simply understanding the physiological cause of pain. Pain Neuroscience Education (PNE) is a strategy that I use to help people manage their symptoms. Research shows PNE lessens fear, gives people justifiable hope, and reduces acute pain.

Feel better with more information

Here’s a good example. Many of you know my wife, Angie, who helps me in the clinic. A few months ago, she developed severe leg pain with numbness in her foot. The pain was so bad, it actually made her cry and greatly restricted her movement. After doing a PT evaluation and having her try out some gentle stretches, we determined it was probably sciatica.

Sciatica happens when one or more of the nerves that run down your lower back and into your legs is irritated due to inflammation, pinching, or compression. It’s usually not a serious or dangerous condition, but it sure can hurt like it is! Just ask Angie.

Sciatica can seem mysterious because the cause of the pain is often not coming from where the pain is felt. Once Angie realized that it was a nerve irritated by something going on in her back, the pain started to make sense. I helped her find some gentle stretches, specific to her, that alleviated her pain and some simple postural changes that prevented the pain from returning. This took a lot of the scary uncertainty away and much of the pain with it.

Now, instead of finding Angie rubbing her leg and crying, I find her doing an easy stretch that we know will lessen the odds that her sciatic pain will return.

It’s not just physical pain

When I first became interested in health care, physical therapy appealed to me because of its straightforwardness, or so I thought.  This hurts, so do this to fix it. Well, it’s not quite that simple. As a physical therapist, I see folks all the time who are at risk for depression and/or anxiety due to their movement disorder.

It’s easy to see how pain can cause depression. Pain often keeps people from doing the things they love – playing with grandchildren, going out with friends. It doesn’t even have to be something you enjoy. Not being able to carry a full laundry basket or stand by the stove to cook a meal can be frustrating in the least and even disruptive to family life.

We often hear that exercise is medicine or that exercise can be a natural depressant. Being forced to quit exercising due to a movement disorder can have the opposite effect, making a person more susceptible to depression.

Concern over reinjuring or “permanently” injuring oneself can cause people to be anxious about doing even beneficial exercises. I’ve seen some patients who were so anxious about their condition that they held themselves so stiff, it hindered their recovery.

And when a person’s movement disorder is disabling, it can affect their livelihood. “I’m scared what’s going to happen to my family because this has me out of work and we’re struggling to pay our bills.”

A holistic approach

One of the most satisfying aspects of my job is problem solving with a holistic approach. You are more than your movement disorder. You are more than a body part. You are an individual with specific needs, responsibilities, and background. When you come to see Paul the Physical Therapist, we’re going to form a partnership. Help me better understand you and your life, and I’ll teach you to build body awareness, get acquainted with pain neuroscience, and be empowered to help yourself.

Together, we’ll help you to move better and feel better… soon!