Physical therapist working with a patient using a small weight
Allied News January 24, 2020

7 Common Myths Your Physical Therapist Patients May Believe

When it comes to physical therapy, patient education is just as important as hands-on care and prescribed exercise. One of the obstacles that physical therapists must navigate is misinformation about health and recovery that some clients may believe.

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Some of the most common misconceptions you're likely to come across in your career include:

1. Pain is a bad sign
Kelly Kuhn, PT, RPT, states that a hurdle she often has to overcome is clients believing that "all pain means something is broken." Patients who experience pain are often adamant that their injury is more serious than it is or isn't healing, and this belief can perpetuate the problem.

Physical therapists must be careful not to deny their client's experiences. Prescribe exercise and carry out activities that target the area where they're feeling pain and push the patient just the right amount. Manage their expectations and work at their pace to overcome their fear of pain.

2. Exercise does more harm than good
Kuhn also regularly combats the belief that "rest is best when dealing with pain." While rest is necessary for the acute stage of recovery, it is generally accepted that building muscle and training strength is the best way to alleviate pain.

Working closely and frequently with your patients until they can see tangible results should give them the inspiration to continue strength training independently.

3. All common injuries require surgery
Torn meniscus, rotator cuff tears and herniated discs are some of the injuries you're most likely to encounter, especially if you work with athletes. Kuhn has found that many people mistakenly believe they will need surgical intervention for even relatively minor injuries.

To combat this, give your clients a time frame of four to six weeks of regular physical therapy. If they don't notice the difference, surgery may be necessary. It helps give them an insight into how these types of injuries heal, you can also suggest they speak to their primary care physician to back up your claims.

4. The term core refers to the stomach muscles
Kuhn also recognizes that many of her patients are under the misconception that "core stability means squeezing your abs." The dangerous aspect of this falsehood is that patients won't focus on strengthening their lumbar region. Teach your clients that their core is made up of the pelvic floor, diaphragm, multifidus and transversus abdominus muscles, among others.

You can help them learn strengthening exercises for each of these muscles individually to start understanding the difference in how activating each one feels and how they work together.

5. Good posture means sitting locked in one position
Another myth Kuhn finds arises in multiple patients is the idea that there "is only one perfect sitting posture." An issue many people have with understanding posture is that they believe they have to sit at their desk with an unnaturally straight back.

As such, their efforts seem too arduous and uncomfortable. Let your patients know that good posture is dynamic and loose. Inspire them to focus on efficient posture, as opposed to stiff or strenuous stances.

6. Stretching cures everything
Dr. Jasmine Marcus, PT, DPT, CSCS, says that the myth she encounters most frequently is her clients believing that stretching is a cure-all. She says, "Often, patients believe their injuries could have been prevented if only they had stretched more when really their injuries are in the overuse category.

We know from research that in many instances, muscles that feel tight are in fact weak and need to be strengthened rather than stretched."

To help guide your clients towards a more realistic understanding, you can demonstrate how stretching is most beneficial for improving flexibility. Explain to them that pain arises because muscle fibers are too easily damaged when they're weak and how strengthening exercises can help better than stretching.

7. My physical therapist will get me better
Meredith Castin, PT, DPT, advises patients, "Only YOU can get yourself better. I might be able to help you identify what's wrong and teach you techniques to improve your mobility, but it's up to you to do the exercises I prescribe to actually get better!" A great PT empowers their patients to help themselves.

As a physical therapist, you can empower your patients by ensuring you set clear boundaries and communicate in a manner that demonstrates that you are the guide and the client is the master.

If you're looking for your next physical therapy role, have a look at the varied opportunities available across the country at Club Staffing.  Begin your journey to new career success from the link below.

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