How do I know which therapist I should go and see about my back pain?
This is a common question that I hear people asking – and I completely understand where there coming from.
There are so many different types of therapy out there that it can be very confusing for people to know who is be the best to go to.
Lets take a look at back pain and the most common therapists who treat back that come to mind are Chiroprators, Osteopaths, Physiotherapists and Physical Therapists and massage therapists.
There are plenty more out there who claim that they can help people in back pain so how does someone choose who is best to see.
To start off, I am a qualified physical therapist, and want to let to let that be known, but I am not going to display any bias towards the profession and want to look at what is best for the patient when making this decision.
So all these professions have the same thing in common really – they all want to help people get out of pain. So in theory it shouldn’t matter who you go and see…………
…..Unfortunately it seldom works like this.
Not all therapist and clinicians treat the same and this includes the physical therapy and physiotherapy profession. You may go and see one physical therapist and they will have a completely different outlook and treatment on the next physical therapist.
So like every profession there will be a difference in quality, approach, communication and after care that will differentiate a good clinician from an average or poor clinician, regardless of how many letters they have after their name.
So to make it easier for the patient, lets look at a few important things that should happen when you go under the care of a good therapist and a good clinician.
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Here are 5 important things that a good therapist should display and explain to you when you become their patient
1 ) Do they listen to you and what you want to achieve from the treatments.
This may sound obvious and simple but you’d be surprised by how many therapists don’t actually fully listen to the patient and why they have come to see them in the first place. Let me give you an example.
I had a 45 year old patient who come to see me two months back with a leg problem who just wanted to be able to get back walking pain free so she could walk her children to school every morning. That time was precious to her. She spent 6 weeks with another therapist who them doing difficult exercises that were more designed for a GAA player and because they were too severe, had actually flared up an old hip problem. All the client wanted to do was to be able to walk pain-free and the this was not heard correctly by the therapist as they were too concerned with giving fancy exercises.
2) Do they give you a clear understanding of what it is that is causing your pain?
Everyone wants to know why they are in pain and what is causing the pain. Pain is a unique experience to the person and two people may feel different experiences with the same type of injury. It is influenced by internal stressors that are unique to the person and these need to be explained and addressed or else the patient will never fully return to their pre- injured or pain free state.
3) Do they explain to you the current best practice and speak in a way you can understand.
So by this I mean that they should not use words like ” slipped disc”, “loose disc”, “pelvis out of place”, “spine of an 80 year old man” “weak back” or “poor posture is the cause of your pain”.
These are all words that should not be used in modern day healthcare as they are misleading and how been found to not be supported by latest research. Your spine is a very strong structure and discs don’t just easily slip out and your pelvis can’t just be popped back into place.
Your therapist should use terminology that reflects what really is going on in a way that you can understand and relate to, and that won’t increase your fear and pain levels unnecessarily.
4) Do they give you a clear treatment plan before commencing treatment
I remember my first time going for a treatment for neck pain (not going to mention which type of therapist it was). What I thought was part of the assessment, actually turned out to be the treatment and 15 minutes later he was looking for 75 euro. I was shocked and foolishly paid him.
A good therapist should spend some time getting all the information they need by first talking to the patient and assessing their movements and then explain what they have found and what is the likely outcome, amount of treatments needed to achieve the patients goal and how they are going to achieve it before commencing any treatment.
5) Do they give you the power and knowledge to take back control of your own body.
At Midlands Physical Therapy we use hands-on treatment to help get changes in the tissues to allow you to move better and reduce pain. However as the treatments go on, this becomes less important and educating and empowering the patient about how to move well and what they have to do to stay pain-free and move well, become more important.
The patient should not be expected to just show up for treatments and rely on some magic technique from the therapist to get them better.
At Midlands Physical Therapy we are interested in getting long term results and in order to do this, there needs to be communication and work from both the therapist and the patient to achieve the right results.
So as you can see all therapists will be hoping to achieve the same result but if they get there depends on a couple of key important things along the way. They need to be putting the patient first and foremost and not be so worried about their fancy techniques or ‘ego’ but more concerned about how they can help the patient get back to doing the things they want and love to do, and ensuring that they stay there.