Returning From Injury: Not as Straightforward as You Might Think

Returning From Injury: Not as Straightforward as You Might Think

Sam WatkinsBy Dr. Sam Watkins, DPT

One of the first questions a new patient typically asks is how long until they are symptom-free and can return to their regular routine. It’s a tricky question to navigate because the rehab process can be so variable. Moreover, I don’t want to overemphasize a “normal” timeline because if patients perceive themselves as being “behind schedule,” they may lose motivation.

That’s why it’s critical for a patient to understand that progress in recovering from injury isn’t linear. No matter how smoothly the rehab process is going, nearly everybody sees some sort of setback or plateau. For many, this can result in emotions ranging from disappointment, frustration, and back to commitment.

Having gone through the rehab process myself, I have an understanding of how difficult the journey is. Therefore, I ensure that my patients are aware of the challenges they will face and see that if they remain focused and avoid getting discouraged during difficult times, then they will most likely have a successful recovery.

My own experience with physical therapy

Throughout my youth, I was a goalkeeper for a number of competitive soccer teams in the Seattle area. At the end of my season as a junior in high school, all of my progress came to a crashing halt after I fractured my tibia and was placed in a full-leg cast. I eventually began physical therapy but I was not a proactive patient.

Being an athletic teenager, I initially progressed quickly without doing much outside of the clinic sessions, but I became frustrated when I hit a plateau. Luckily, I was working with a good physical therapist who sat down with me and discussed the ups and downs of the rehab process. He made it clear that I was not going to regain the strength that I had developed over years of training by doing nothing other than going to my 2 PT appointments each week.

So, we worked together to develop a program that I would follow daily; I followed it consistently and I began to see steady progress. Ultimately, I returned to soccer at a higher level than I had been pre-injury and ended up playing at the collegiate level. I attribute a great deal of that success to my PT who took the time to understand my frustrations and work with me to develop a plan that I would follow.

How my experience shapes my patient care

Understanding the frustrations you may face in the rehab process is crucial to staying committed to improving your well-being through physical therapy. When someone has their first setback, it’s easy to say, “I’ve lived with the injury for this long already, I guess it’s something I will just have forever”, and give up on physical therapy. But my goal early on with all of my patients is for them to have a realistic understanding of the rehab process.

In addition to that focus, I provide all my patients with individualized treatment plans that include exercises to help manage symptoms when they are having a bad day so they can have some control over their situation. As a physical therapist, I understand that patients will have progress and setbacks and that is okay; it is part of the process. Throughout the process, I strive to be a valuable resource for my patients as they move from injury to activity.

I look forward to helping you move your best!

Need a new or old injury evaluated? You can easily book an evaluation appointment here.



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