Two Steps Forward, One Step Back: Normal Feelings in Physical Therapy

Getting physical therapy can cause a lot of emotions- - and that's normal.

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Getting physical therapy can cause a lot of emotions. Injury rehabilitation can feel unfamiliar, exciting, and maybe even overwhelming. It’s the physical therapists job to investigate why things are hurting and educate you about your body. Sometimes that unveils strengths, but can also reveal weaknesses. This can be surprising. All these feelings are normal.

At some point in time with patients, I always have this conversation. Whether the stage is set at the start of physical therapy, or reinforced in the middle, it’s an important topic to cover. ⁣The topic of validation.

As healthcare practitioners, we ask questions, investigate, listen and validate. It’s obviously important when it’s about biology, but it’s equally important when checking in with the “psych” portion of the biopsychosocial model. ⁣

If you’ve ever had an injury or set back, you may have experienced all of those feelings. I hope you knew that was okay and 𝗰𝗼𝗺𝗽𝗹𝗲𝘁𝗲𝗹𝘆 valid. ⁣

At the start or during physical therapy, you may feel:

  • Nervous.
  • Uncertain.
  • Fearful.
  • Skeptical.
  • Hesitant.
  • Frustrated.
  • Unmotivated. 

And you’re allowed to. 

As patients improve, we push boundaries. We have to push boundaries (with a calculated effort) to find their new limit. If we never push them, we’ll never trigger change. ⁣Sometimes that means pushing past comfort, which could cause some symptoms. Usually, it’s temporary and we can move past it within a few days. But sometimes the thought of it coming back on can trigger patients. ⁣However, with diligent efforts, patients will learn about their body and keep progressing. This can be exciting or uncomfortable — and that’s normal.

By the end of physical therapy, you may feel:

  • Motivated.
  • Happier.
  • More independent.
  • More capable.
  • Confident in your ability to move.
  • Empowered to try new activity. 

And that was the goal. 

It’s our job to validate and educate that things are still progressing.⁣ Two steps forward and one step back is still progress. Even if it’s two or three steps back, it’s a new place than day one. ⁣As cliche as it is, the road to recovery can be winding. It can test your physical and mental limits. ⁣ This is why finding a physical therapist that is dedicated to you and your goals is important in navigating the waters of injury recovery. This is why finding a physical therapist that you trust and are comfortable with is critical.

So if you’re new to this, remember these few things. Physiology takes time, change requires mental and physical effort, and be patient with your body.


Considering starting physical therapy? Book a consult with me!

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