1. Health

Stay Motivated in Physical Therapy

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Updated December 30, 2012

So you have injured yourself or have had surgery, and you are not able to move around and function properly. Your doctor refers you to physical therapy to help you regain strength, endurance, range of motion, and functional mobility.

When you first start physical therapy, it may be a bit exciting because it is a new experience. You may quickly realize that physical therapy can be a lot of work, and sometimes the procedures and treatments used in physical therapy may cause a little bit of pain.

If your condition requires a lengthy course of rehabilitation, you may notice that you start to lose motivation while recovering from your injury. It may become a burden to get up and go to the physical therapy clinic. If you are in the hospital and require acute care physical therapy, you may be feeling too tired to participate in physical therapy.

Do I Need Motivation?

Motivation is different for everybody. It involves social, biological, and cultural variables that all interconnect in each person and causes him or her to act. Something that motivates you may not motivate another person.

If you are a basketball player and you dislocate your kneecap, you may be motivated to work hard to return to the sport that you enjoy. If you suddenly have a heart attack and require cardiac rehabilitation to return to normal function, your motivation may push you to simply get out of the hospital and to return home.

So how do you stay motivated in physical therapy? Are there ways to keep your spirits up and to keep working to make the most of your physical therapy experience?

Find the Right Physical Therapist

One key to staying involved in your rehabilitation is to find the right physical therapist from the start. Ask specific questions before starting therapy to ensure that your physical therapist is the right one for you.

Your physical therapist should encourage you and help to motivate you. If you feel that your physical therapist is not a good fit for your personality, ask if there is another physical therapist that can treat you at the clinic or at the hospital. If not, you may need to seek out another physical therapy clinic to help you with your rehabilitation.

Track Your Progress

When you first start physical therapy, your therapist will likely perform an initial evaluation where he or she will collect various measurements about your condition. Ask your physical therapist to tell you what those measurements mean and ask what your goals are for each measured impairment.

For example, if you have a broken ankle, your physical therapist will use a goniometer to measure the range of motion of your ankle joint. Keep track of those measurements when your physical therapist takes them, and set goals to achieve greater range of motion at specific time frames. Your physical therapist can help you set and achieve your specific goals.

Find a Therapy Buddy

Sometimes in physical therapy, you may notice other patients who are experiencing situations that are similar to your own. Strike up a conversation with another patient, and perhaps you will find that he or she can help to motivate you to stay involved in your own rehabilitation.

You may also want to ask your physical therapist to schedule you with a patient who has a similar diagnosis such as yours. That way you can share stories about your experience. You may also learn about what to expect from rehabilitation if your therapy buddy has progressed further along than you.

Of course, your physical therapist must use discretion; HIPAA laws in the United States prevent healthcare workers from sharing patients' protected health information with you. Your physical therapist may help you find patients with similar problems or diagnoses as yours, but he or she cannot share specific information about other patients.

Motivation through Music

Sometimes music can be a good motivator, and you can use music to help you stay motivated in physical therapy. Often there is music playing in the background in the physical therapy clinic. Ask your physical therapist if you can bring in your own music to play while you are receiving treatment. He or she may allow you to listen to the music that provides motivation and some music therapy.

Recovering from an injury can be a difficult thing to do. You may experience slow progress, and your motivation may wane during your course of rehabilitation. It may be difficult to keep your spirits up enough to continue. By working closely with your physical therapist, hopefully you can find the motivation to stay pumped up and focused during your recovery process.

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