Myth#2: Physical Therapy is Painful

Buh-BAM! I really like the campaign for National PT Month on the 7 Myths About Physical Therapy. Nice work APTA! We do combat many-a-stereotype out there in the field, so this is a nice push.

Let’s look at Myth #2: Physical Therapy is Painful. This one really stands out to me. There are others who write about this more (Diane Jacobs, KeithP, Jason Silvernail, Harrison Vaughan, Barret Dorko, … and others, I don’t intend to leave anyone out) about how adding pain to the treatment equation is detrimental to patient experience and outcomes.  But does everyone hold this patient centered view?

Please see the image below, taken in an outpatient clinic in the year 2014:


I have full faith that this was created in the light of jocularity and good faith. But who is the audience here?

Patient centered? No. Empathetic? No. Understanding to the pain or mood of the patient? No.  Can you imaging the expectations being set in a new patient who perhaps has never been to PT, or is nervous about their recovery? Whew.

This sort of attitude is paternalistic, removes the locus of control from the patient and sets up a huge authoritarian relationship, right from the get-go. I’m trying not to be over-reactive, but this sort of thing really bothers me. When patients come in and jokes are made about “pain and torture” and being “forced to exercise” or any other assumptions made that PT is unwanted…well, it does not contribute to a healing environment.

Heck, even when we do a great job in return to function, as in the case of James Brady, we are still famously known as “physical terrorists.” I sometimes feel like I am in a bubble of like-minded people, back-patters, who are concerned with value and patient centered care and outcomes, while out in the “real world” there are many other competing beliefs and goal sets.  I suppose we are charged to lead the way…

At any rate, the public does not automatically equate us with pain relief at this time... they may look to massage therapists, or anti-inflammatories but, unless a PT has personally helped them or someone near them, we are not the first to come popping into thought. We do treat painful conditions, and we do a superb job.  It turns out, some in the PT community need to re-align themselves with the future.  The future is the patient. Turn the focus away from yourself, and toward those that are seeking help. We are obligated and accountable to our patients.  An please, control your language, words have meaning.

I still have trouble looking at that poster…

Matt D

Click our MedBridge link for an Epic Discount on their sweet CEU and HEP services!

One thought on “Myth#2: Physical Therapy is Painful

  1. Pingback: A Year in Review | PTbraintrust

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