Private physical therapists are not created equal. Yet they may have the same titles, charge the same fees and work within the same geographical area. So, how do you find a good physical therapist? Here are some guidelines to help you choose wisely.
There are 3 core themes to focus on to help you find a good physical therapist:
- Openness & Flexibility
- Empowering Approach
Openness & Flexibility
First your therapist must be willing to listen to you properly. Openness includes understanding your concerns, your condition and your goals in a non-judgmental way. It also means willingness to seek out and apply more knowledge to help you move forward.
Matt Taylor, Co-Founder of Response Physiotherapy, Nottingham, UK, recognises that patient expectations have changed, “Now that the public is more educated, people want to be involved in their own diagnosis and health care. This is possible if you have somebody experienced to discuss your case with. Most clients will have researched their back pain on the Internet before seeing a therapist. What they find is sometimes helpful and sometimes not. The important thing is to discuss with them what they find, not to discourage them from doing the research in the first place. The fact that people will go out and find information for themselves is empowering.”
Your therapist should also be committed to a multi-faceted approach. For example by working with other therapists and experts to ensure you get the support you need. This could be something as simple as making a referral to a “competitor”. Other experts may be better placed to address certain issues. This implies your therapist must know his or her limitations. Some find this easy and others not so easy. Richard Moore, Founder of Moore Osteopathy, Nottingham, UK says, “Even though other osteopaths are competitors, we also consider each other colleagues and part of the same community. Sometimes another osteopath has a different approach which fits better with that particular patient.”
Each case of back pain is unique, so rigidity does not work. Your therapist needs to be flexible enough to change course if something is not working. This includes safely exploring alternative treatments. Matt says, “I try to create early success, find a baseline for what the client can handle. Then strengthen up while addressing compensating patterns of the body. I am open to any intervention. In some cases injections are the right choice. In some cases surgery is the right choice. It depends on the circumstances.”
One way of knowing whether a therapist is effective is through a recommendation from a client. Preferably one with similar issues to yours. If they have already helped someone like you, they may very well be able to help you too!
Your own rate of progress is, of course, the ultimate indication. But you need to be patient as recovery from back pain tends to happen in baby steps. Tracking, to notice the more subtle improvements, is therefore vital. See the article, Why people who track their progress almost always recover quicker from back pain.
Cost effectiveness is also worth considering. Are their fees in line with the market? Whether they actually help you recover is, of course, more important than the hourly rate. But, it is also important not to fall prey to unreasonably expensive therapists. Sometimes the saying, “you get what you pay for” is true, and other times it just isn’t. For example, the therapists that helped me recover were no more expensive than the ones that made no difference.
Your aim is to recover from back pain – not to become a perpetual customer of your therapist. A therapist who puts you at the centre, rather than her own profit, will work towards making herself redundant. That’s the kind of therapist you want! Signs that the relationship is developing into one of dependency are red flags. If you need follow-up appointments in perpetuity your back hasn’t been fixed!
So, the right kind of therapist needs to offer you advice and support on how to carry on and improve without them. Richard says, “I don’t believe in creating a relationship of dependency. My aim is for clients never to have to return. To achieve this most clients must be willing to change their lifestyles.”
Now, find a good physical therapist…
Based on the above mentioned 3 core themes, here are 7 tips that will help you find a good physical therapist:
- Is your initial conversation with the therapist an actual conversation or a monologue? Is he keen to understand what is really going on with you, or is he pulling “standard solutions” out of his filing cabinet? If the rapport is not right, walk away. There are plenty of other therapists.
- Ask the therapist how often they tend to refer clients to other specialists. Then dig a little to understand reasons and circumstances. Lack of collaboration could mean trouble.
- How does the therapist respond to your own assessment and ideas about your back pain? See the article, How to discover your own back pain solutions and claim your life back! Is she indifferent, even dismissive, or will she engage with it and have a proper discussion? You’ll want the latter!
- You should place a lot of importance on a personal recommendation. Second best are testimonials, though they may be difficult to verify. If there is a way of verifying them, do so!
- Track your progress meticulously, and stay with the therapist if you are making progress over time. See the article, Why people who track their progress almost always recover quicker from back pain.
- Avoid therapists with unusually low fees. But also, do not assume that “more expensive” means “better”.
- If you feel sucked into a relationship of dependency – get out!
Support by the right therapists combined with support from the BackMentorMe community puts you on the road to recovery. Have a look at this simple four-step method to see how it all works.
Find a good physical therapist – Key Points
- A good therapist should have an open and flexible mind set.
- Ensure your therapist offers effective support, priced in line with the market.
- A therapist should empower you, rather than creating a relationship of dependency.
If you are suffering from back pain, why not discover your own back pain solutions and claim your life back?
If you have already made a lot of progress, or become pain free, why not inspire others by sharing your story?
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