This is purely anecdotal. I have no statistics showing what I am about to express, but I believe in it. I recall my very first triathlon. Without my knowledge friends were orchestrated to show up at a number of places along the route. There even was a huge fifteen-foot sign that colorfully read, “Go Michele!” During that triathlon I was nervous, doubtful of my physical ability and fatigued. It seemed like anytime I’d have a dip in my energy or confidence, a few friends surprisingly popped up to cheer me on! Other participants said, “Gosh, I wish I were Michele!
Here is my point. It is extremely important to have a support system, whether that be the encouraging faces of your partner, family, friends or co-workers. Now we have “Fit Bit” challenges which motivate friends and coworkers to exercise and be active. Smart phone exercise ‘Apps’ allow you to share your progress with others.
I think emotional support is particularly important when you’re recovering from illness or injury. We are all human and it takes energy to maintain a positive attitude, to keep taking steps towards improvement or rehabilitating. One of my mentors has found how well a spinal cord injured person recovers depends in part on the amount of emotional support they receive. Obviously, extent of the injury & involvement also play a huge factor as does prior health. Health and extent of physical injury aside, the importance of emotional support is the one that stuck with me.
How the support is expressed depends on individual preference. I suggest an acknowledgement of where you are - whether you are struggling, experiencing pain, disappointment, or frustration. Maybe it’s simply a pat on the shoulder or a hug. In my over 22 years of being a physical therapist, I have not seen it helpful to nag, put-down or compare what would be different if the tables were turned.
One of the treasures of being a physical therapist is the relationship built with the patient. We are genuinely concerned with your injury and with you as a person. We typically are given a series of treatments with you, and can be your cheering squad, to even hold your hand if necessary. We know that this type of emotional support is essential to recovery and should be a common thread through the entire physical therapy clinic or any health institute for that matter.
Michele S Jang, PT is a physical therapist who likes to look outside the box. A physical therapist for over 22 years, she has extensive training in manual therapy or the use of hands to help rehabilitate the body. Michele has taught both in the United States and abroad. Her clinic, Spirit Winds, has a team of therapists which offers an array of expertise. Spirit Winds offers Free Consults on Tuesday afternoons. Call 805 543-5100 or firstname.lastname@example.org.