Traits of Physical Therapy Patients Who Beat the Odds

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Over the past five and a half years of treating patients for 40+ hours per week, I have seen several patients beat the odds – by a lot! These folks were given very low expectations from neurologists, orthopedic doctors and even other physical therapists.

Sometimes their gains seemed to defy what the science taught us to be possible. What causes such incredible outcomes? Is it great therapy? No, I can’t accept such credit. There seems to be some golden, intangible thread that allows these patients to beat their prognosis. I have tried to read between the lines when working with these patients to better understand what they seem to know and learn how to teach their incredible skills to other patients.

What 4 traits do these patients have in common?

1. The ability to suspend their disbelief: The ability to take one step and a time and be process orientated instead of end goal orientated. The ability to suspend judgement on one’s condition or situation.

Why is this important?: Simple logic – if you don’t swing the bat, you can’t hit the ball. Every great modern accomplishment by humans was initially thought to be impossible. Someone always has to be the first to do what has never been done.

2. Setting intentions is foundation of luck: No you can’t magically speak yourself into getting better after suffering a major physical trauma. However, if you intend on getting better, you are more likely to ask important questions and surround yourself with healthcare providers who are talented enough to help you on your journey.

Why is this important?: Dr. Wayne Dyer says it best with his book “The Power of Intention” that if you intend to succeed then success chases you instead of you chasing it.

3. The ability to put stress in it’s place: A powerful exercise that we teach our patients to do is to set a timer and let yourself worry about your aliment for no longer than 10 minutes per day. During those 10 minutes it is okay to cry, wring hands, complain, etc. After those 10 minutes, turn the stress switch to the off position and focus on how the exercises, information and hard work will help your situation improve.

Why is this important?: Stress in small amounts can be a catalyst and cause incredible motivation. Stress in large amounts bogs the body down and disrupts mental focus needed to accomplish difficult challanges.

4. Assembling the right team: Working with therapists and physicians that mesh well with your personality.

Why is this important?: Rehabilitation needs to be a constructive team effort. Undergoing therapy can be a long process that is incredibly trying mentally and physically. Therapy works best when patient and therapist personalities compliment each other instead of disrupt each other.

Giving credit where credit is due: During one of my student internships, I was fortunate enough to be mentored by Steve Schall of Norfolk Physical Therapy in Virginia. I once asked Steve why he would create incredibly lofty and unlikely goals for patients. Steve answered simply:

“I’m not going to be the one to place limitations on anyone”.

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