Patients can no longer be passive players in the game of health. Studies show that informed patients
are not only more engaged during physical therapy but also reap the benefits in overall health and
Those who understand why they’ve been referred to physical therapy, are actively engaged in the
process, and develop useful self-management skills are more likely to achieve lasting results. With a
few pointers, building one’s health literacy doesn’t have to be an overwhelming prospect.
To get the most out of your rehabilitation, it’s important to keep an open line of communication
with your physical therapist. Your physical therapist is a wealth of knowledge and is there to help
you regain mobility and relieve pain. The interaction should be positive, informative, and
collaborative. Here are a few questions to ask your physical therapist so you may understand the
rehab approach and how it impacts your injury or illness:
- Why have I lost function/why do I hurt? Your physical therapist has been trained to
determine why a particular injury causes a loss of mobility or interferes with your ability to
complete a task. It’s helpful for patients to gather information and understand the body’s
mechanics as it relates to an individual injury.
- Did my lifestyle contribute to this issue? Your physical therapist will gather information
about your lifestyle in order to identify habits that might be contributing to the problem.
Perhaps the patient needs to wear shoes with support and limit time in flip flops. Or maybe
the patient is experiencing low back pain due to poor posture at work.
- How will physical therapy help me? Physical therapists work with patients to devise an
individualized and concrete care plan. You should feel comfortable asking your physical
therapist why a specific goal has been chosen, how it will help you, and what you personally
need to do to succeed.
- What can I do to make sure I get better? Showing up for appointments is only half the
battle. Being ready to participate and understanding what you should be doing in between
appointments is critical. You should be prepared to carry over goals at home and make
modifications to habits at home and work to change contributing behavior.
It’s important that you feel comfortable asking your physical therapist questions and continue to
understand how you can contribute to your care plan. Advocating for your own care and
maximizing educational opportunities will give you the confidence and tools to succeed in physical
therapy and beyond.