Both through speaking to patients and my own experience as a patient in our healthcare system, I have realized the importance of being a self-advocate. One of the best ways to help recover from your symptoms and reduced risk for a re-occurrence of symptoms, is to be a self-advocate as well as be an active participant in your recovery. Below are 5 questions to be asking your physical therapist over the course of your treatment.
1. What is the root of my problem/cause of my pain or symptoms?
This is an important question, however there is also a caveat – your PT may not be able to give you the exact answer. What you are looking for is honesty from your PT about what they think is going on. The answer may be something like, “I know that we need to treat these things, but the root cause could be X, Y, or Z.” This is the beginning step in you being a self-advocate.
2. What is your treatment plan for me/How is what you are doing going to help?
The treatment plan your therapist has for you will include how often they think you should be coming, what techniques/exercises they are going to use to address your symptoms, and who else might be beneficial for you to see during the course of your treatment. Often times as therapists we think its beneficial for you to see a second therapist for another perspective and then we work collaboratively to give you the best care. The second portion of this question helps to give perspective on the ‘why,’ which is important for you to know as a self-advocate.
3. What should I be doing at home?
The best way to help yourself get better is to actively engage in your recovery. The best way to actively engage in your recovery is to perform the activities your therapist recommends for you at home.
4. What is your plan for re-evaluation? If I am not seeing progress, what other options would there be to pursue?
This is a simple way to be a self-advocate for your care. As PTs we do our best to discuss these things with you without you having to ask but it never hurts for you to ask a second time or to be the one to bring it up. These are things we are thinking through but don’t always get around to discussing with you.
5. What are signs that I am doing something wrong or I am worsening my problem?
This is a question that is commonly asked of us as PTs. It is important for you to maintain safety and not overdo it while you are under the care of a PT. This is also another way you can actively participate in your recovery.
Overall, for your best experience and optimal recovery, it is important for you to be an active participant with your PT throughout your treatment. Discussing these topics is a great way to do that. If you aren’t sure of something ALWAYS ask for explanation.
Written by: Dr. Matthew DeLange, PT, DPT