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Why Physical Therapy Didn't Work for You

By: Dr. Ashley Bertorelli, PT, DPT, Founder/Owner of The Green Room PT

Most of you know me as a huge fan and proponent of Physical Therapy as the solution to so many physical (and often also mental/psychological!) ailments and issues. Physical therapy is often the key to recovery for many patients dealing with pain or mobility issues, and how that impacts their quality of life. However, some people walk away from physical therapy feeling frustrated and disillusioned because they didn’t achieve the results they were hoping for. There are several reasons why physical therapy might not work for some individuals, and it's crucial to understand these factors to ensure better outcomes in the future.

1. Unskilled Care and Inadequate Attention

One of the primary reasons physical therapy might fail is due to unskilled care. Not all physical therapists are created equal, and the quality of care can vary significantly between clinics. Here are a few red flags to watch out for:

  • Lack of Proper Assessment: A skilled physical therapist should perform a thorough assessment and create a personalized treatment plan. If you feel like you're receiving a one-size-fits-all approach, you might not be getting the care you need.

  • Inadequate Knowledge and Skills: Physical therapy is a continually evolving field. Therapists should engage in ongoing education and collaboration with their peers to stay current with the latest techniques and research. If your therapist isn’t knowledgeable about the most effective treatments for your condition, your progress may be limited.

2. Double and Triple Booking Patients

Another significant issue in some clinics is the practice of double or triple booking patients. This means your therapist might be juggling multiple patients at once, leading to:

  • Lack of Individual Attention: Physical therapy requires hands-on, individualized care. If your therapist is dividing their attention among several patients, you’re likely not receiving the focused treatment necessary for optimal recovery.

  • Increased Risk of Injury: Without proper supervision, patients may perform exercises incorrectly, which can lead to further injury as the worst-case scenario and no progress as the best-case scenario, rather than healing.

3. Bigger Systemic Issues

Sometimes, the problem isn’t with the physical therapy itself but with other underlying issues that need to be addressed concurrently. These can include:

  • Chronic Inflammation: Inflammation can hinder your body’s ability to heal and respond to therapy. Conditions like arthritis, autoimmune disorders, and chronic infections can cause ongoing inflammation that needs to be managed alongside physical therapy.

  • Diet and Nutrition: What you eat can have a profound effect on your recovery. A poor diet can lead to inflammation, slow healing, and reduced energy levels, all of which can impede your progress in physical therapy. Working with a nutritionist or adopting an anti-inflammatory diet can make a significant difference.

  • Sleep Quality: Sleep is when your body heals and regenerates. Lack of quality sleep can slow down your recovery process. Addressing sleep issues is crucial for anyone undergoing physical therapy.

  • Stress Management: Chronic stress can have various negative effects on the body, including increased muscle tension and pain sensitivity. Learning stress management techniques can be an important adjunct to your physical therapy.

Ensuring Successful Physical Therapy

To ensure that you get the most out of your physical therapy, consider the following tips:

  • Choose Your Therapist Carefully: Do your research and select a Physical Therapy clinic with good reviews and proper credentials. Don’t hesitate to ask about their experience and approach to treatment.

  • Communicate Openly: Be honest with your therapist about your symptoms, pain levels, and any other health issues. This information is crucial for developing an effective treatment plan.

  • Take a Holistic Approach: Address any systemic issues that might be affecting your recovery. This might involve working with other healthcare professionals in addition to your physical therapist.

  • Be Patient and Persistent: Recovery takes time. Follow your therapist’s instructions, stay consistent with your exercises, and be patient with the process.

By understanding and addressing these factors, you can improve your chances of a successful outcome with physical therapy. If you’ve been disappointed with your progress in the past, consider reevaluating your approach and addressing these common issues to get back on the path to recovery.

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