I recently had a 45 yo female come to my clinic for a consult and ask me “If I can find exercises online, why do I need physical therapy?”
I wish I could say that I was taken back. Or, that I was shocked a relatively healthy 45 yo would ask me why she should go see a healthcare professional.
She told me that she received an MRI roughly a year ago after “severely” rolling her ankle while playing volleyball with her girls. The MRI revealed some ligament tears. The podiatrist told her to wear a walking boot for 6 weeks.
She was faithful to the walking boot, knowing she wanted to get back to playing sports with her girls. She had a second MRI after the 6 weeks that showed her ankle had completely healed. This client was ecstatic that her body could heal a ligament. And, more importantly, return to volleyball in less than 2 months.
Only, she tried to return to volleyball and noticed she was still having pain on the top of her foot. This prevented her from returning to volleyball. She chalked it up to age and figured she should not be playing volleyball anymore.
Fast forward 8 months and she is now dealing with the original pain on the top of the foot, along with the bottom of the foot and now into the Achilles tendon.
After going through her history, she stopped and said: “THERE IS NO HOPE…AND I WILL BE HURTING FOREVER”
I hear that more times than I would like. But, each time I see the look of despair and frustration over their own prognosis. She was no different.
All I asked next was: “what have you tried for treatment”?
Response: “Well…nothing…there is nothing that can be done. I have already looked up exercises online and they didn’t work.”
I get this response all the time. There is ALWAYS something that can be done!
What if you could decrease the problem by 50%? What would that be worth to you? She followed that up by saying it would make a huge difference. She might even be able to participate in some of the sporting activities she used to do with her daughter’s. BUT, she continued to say that it was NOT POSSIBLE.
And, why would she spend money on physical therapy? Especially, when it’s “definitely not going to work.” Besides, she had already tried all of the exercises that she could find online.
I completely understand where she is coming from. There is an abundance of information and exercises available online. But, what if it is not just exercising that she needs? What if she is doing one version of an exercise, but should be doing another?
In her situation, the ligament did heal. But, what about the muscles and joints that were subject to being in the boot for that long? Besides, if you don’t use it you lose it, right?
It is going to be hard to believe but I told her I don’t think I want to take her on as a patient. Primarily because she says she has tried everything when she actually hasn’t tried anything. And, she feels there is nothing to be done. It would be hard to make any change when you don’t even believe change can actually happen.
Most physical therapists would still take on this client with her attitude of nothing is going to help and try to convince her that the same exercises she was doing at home will work now that she is doing them in the clinic. I explained to her about how a specialist physical therapist is who she needs. Someone who makes a livelihood on helping active adults see a better way for recovery. One that will be able to teach her what is going on, why, and the importance of choosing the right exercises to regain her ability to play with her daughters.
Don’t give up before you try! Look for a specialized practitioner who treats these injuries daily.
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