Tuesday 20 June 2017

Psychological Barriers of Recovery

Pain hurts..obviously. So when presented with a method of managing and removing that pain, it should be easy to do what needs to be done to comply. Experience, however, tells us that this is not the case.

We've seen it. The individuals who simply won't seek help despite being in chronic and excruciating pain. The ones who make their appointments but cancel the majority of them on a whim. Those who show up, but simply won't adhere to their exercise rehab plan enough in order to progress in their recovery.

I'm feeling to "blah" to go to my appointment today..

I often joke about the "fantasy client"; the one who always shows up on time and never misses a single day of their exercises. These clients are few and far in between.

Why is this? If there's a road to healing, why are are so many people reluctant to take it? Well, there are several psychological barriers to recovery, and it won't be possible to try and touch on them all. There are some common ones that I see in my practice, though.

One big one is a lack of client education regarding the condition and treatment; therefore, a lack of trust in the process for recovery. I find that many people, while seeking treatment, are almost just going through the motions due to consciously knowing that they have to try and get better, yet subconsciously having little faith in succeeding. I've seen many clinicians experience a downfall in this realm in that there is minimal communication on what's happening and how things - whether it's the body or the treatment - work, resulting in poor success rates in the rehab.

There's also those who would like to be pain-free again, but are weighed down by thoughts of unattainable (or at least perceived-so) situations about their lives and bodies which might make recovery seem like it has less meaning. What I mean by this, for example, could be an elderly lady who has back pain she'd like to be rid of but is less motivated because she still won't regain her 20 year old figure. The retired athlete who no longer has a competition goal to work toward. The spinal cord injury patient who can't expect to regain his full nerve function again.

As an Athletic Therapist, how do I work around these barriers? It's my job to help clients get better despite their other facets of life, not to try and fix their entire personal situations (which I couldn't do if I tried). Instead, it's important to help these individuals pave their own ways to success through over those hurdles.

My method isn't complicated. Education, obviously, is key. Client understanding of their injury is important in order to understand how the healing is going to work, and so I spend an ample amount of time making sure I explain exactly what is happening with the individual's body and what our treatment aims and mechanisms are. This is one of the most surefire ways to give clients faith in the process and maintain their perception of treatment efficacy.

Goal-setting, as well, is vitally important during the healing process. Sure, maybe the client isn't going to be training for professional hockey ever again, but maybe he'd like to aim for that biking trip with his son. That elderly lady may not regain her 25 year old figure, but how about a goal of walking (or running) that next city 10k race? Those long-term goals are help to re-perceptualize the process to help the short-term ones have more meaning.

As I said, it seems like a no-brainer that if you want to be rid of pain, it should be easy to adhere to the process; but that's in theory only. Often, people need help and guidance in order to increase their perceived efficacy of the treatment and to adjust their goals to something attainable, but still meaningful.

Health: It's not all in your head, but the head is sure part of it!

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