Physical therapy is about more than just the “physical” attribute.

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We just celebrated National Physiotherapy Month back in May! There are so many things physiotherapy can help with, and physiotherapists are passionate about helping their patients move better and feel better. 

A large component of our work is developing a therapeutic alliance with our patients. That means we value our patient’s perspectives, values, and goals, and all are relevant to our treatment plan. An important part of treatment planning is considering the person as a “whole”. So, not only are we considering your physical history and physical movement, but also considering your mental, emotional, social, and spiritual needs as well. This process of considering the patient as a whole is called “The Biopsychosocial Model”. Each person’s physical experience is directly impacted by their mental, emotional, and spiritual experiences, and vice versa. 

Here is an example of how the brain integrates all these aspects together: 

You move into a new home and have a different bedroom set-up than before. Your alarm goes off in the morning, it’s dark still, and you’re groggy. You roll out of bed and take a few steps and immediately stub your toe on a dresser that in your other home was located in a much different place. You hop around on one foot in agony, while frantically rubbing your toe for some relief. Your brain makes note of this pain and the experience. The next morning, you get up, but your brain remembers the pain, and sends a message to your body to take a wider path. This morning is off to a much better start!

Later on, in the week, you are stressed after a busy work week and are putting away laundry in your bedroom. With your arms full with a laundry basket, and mind busy with a never-ending to-do list, you stub your toe on that dresser again. This time, the pain is worse than before! Your brain remembers the pain… plus your mental/emotional state is elevated… so your pain experience is worse. You might even let out a few choice words as you again, frantically rub your big toe for relief… and possibly re-consider your bedroom set-up. 

So, next time you visit your physiotherapist, and they ask “How have you been the past week?”, not only is it important to note your physical state but also to note your mental/emotional/spiritual experience that week too. As a physiotherapist, we have some tools to discuss more than physical dimensions, and also have the guidance to help you find additional resources too!

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