Get the Most Out of Physical Therapy, Here’s How:

Wednesday February 3rd, 2021

You might think physical therapy (PT) is only good after a surgery or an injury, but in reality it can help you in other ways too. Whether you want to get stronger before a procedure or you want to maintain your strength and independence as you age, PT can help you manage chronic conditions as well as pain. Here’s why PT matters and how you can overcome setbacks on your PT journey.

Why PT matters

PT addresses the five key aspects of physical mobility: flexibility, strength, endurance, posture and balance. It’s easy to take any of these things for granted until it’s gone. Everyday tasks like personal hygiene, cleaning, grocery shopping, doing laundry and cooking require a combination of these five aspects. For example, if you can’t reach your feet, you’re less likely to be able to trim your own nails, clean between your toes and put on your socks and shoes. Maintaining muscle mass helps combat weakness and frailty, preserves bone density and can reduce your risk of chronic disease. Maintaining your endurance slows the decline in your maximum oxygen intake while good posture ensures you have increased energy and lung capacity. Balance is key to reducing your fall risk, which increases with age.

How to overcome setbacks

Setbacks are a given in life which is more like a roller coaster than a flat trail. But just because you’re struggling doesn’t mean you have to add on even more. Here are six tactics to use when you feel like you’re stuck or feel overwhelmed with PT.

Shift your perspective

It’s easy to focus on what’s not going well and what you may have lost. This is natural and is in fact hardwired into human brains. The negativity bias is believed to have let us identify immediate threats like a predator. The good news is you can work with rather than against this. Flip the switch by seeing your problem or obstacle as a challenge. Ask yourself all the ways you could approach the challenge and overcome it. One way to do this is by taking a more experimental approach. When you use phrases like “What if…?” or “What happens when…?” or “Let’s see what this does…” you open up the potential for other possibilities to occur and distance yourself from the outcome.

Chunk down your goals

A 100-mile marathon begins with a single step. When you break up your big goals into smaller, more manageable goals, it’s easier to see progress and you’ll be able to celebrate those small successes to keep you motivated, engaged and moving towards your big goals. Maybe your goal is to recover your strength, stamina and balance after foot surgery. You’ll need to slowly but surely work up your muscles, flexibility and endurance over several months. It’s natural to hit a plateau now and then. If you feel like nothing’s changed, try doing something else until you feel like you can see a difference, even if it’s small. Over time, those little accomplishments add up in a big way.

Focus on the present

How often are you thinking about the past? The future? The present? If you’re like most people, chances are you’re mostly in the past or future but rarely in the present. But the body is always in the here and now. A great way to focus on the present moment is through your breath. Root yourself in what is at this moment rather than what was or will be. This will help you meet your body where it’s at right now. Focus on the things your body can do and try practicing gratitude for all the things you’re still able to do.

Be compassionate with yourself

Maybe you are your own harshest critic. This can be a powerful motivator for some people or situations, however, it’s important to speak to yourself with compassion. It may sound woo-woo but practicing self kindness can help you become more resilient. Try speaking to yourself as you would a best friend. Forgive yourself when you need to but also hold yourself accountable. It’s okay to be disappointed but don’t beat yourself up. Even the world’s greatest athletes sometimes fail. What matters is learning from failure.

Believe in yourself

Human beings are constantly adapting. Embrace opportunities to learn and grow. Getting outside your comfort zone can be awkward and downright terrifying sometimes. But the only way to make a positive change is to try something different or new. When you believe in yourself and your ability to persevere, you’re more likely to achieve your goals. Make sure you celebrate your successes along the way, even if they are small. You earned them with your hard work, time and energy.

It’s okay to ask for help

Everybody needs help at some point. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness or inadequacy. In fact, asking for help is it’s own kind of strength, courage and vulnerability. It’s a brave recognition of your own limits. Sometimes you need an expert or a team of people to get you through. That’s okay. People love to help others because it gives them meaning, makes them feel good and can even teach them something. When you ask for help, you’re often helping the helper in a mutually beneficial relationship.

You can do it

PT takes work but it’s worth it in the end. You’ll feel better so you can have a higher quality of life that’s active and fulfilling. You deserve to be as healthy and happy as you can for as long as you can.

Looking for more aging tips? Check out this post.

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