Fitness and exercise are frequent subjects of discussion these days. It’s hard to venture into any given store without seeing countless ideas about just what it means to live a healthy lifestyle. In fact, there’s so much information out there that people often become intimidated. It’s hard to know where to begin one’s journey into a healthier lifestyle. And things become even more complex when accident and injury change how one relates to exercise.
This is one of the reasons why physical therapists need to bring so much to the table. They don’t just need to offer a specific service. They also need to be able to get through a wide variety of misinformation and confusion in order to help their clients. But this can be made considerably easier by considering exactly what skills can help one achieve that purpose as quickly and efficiently as possible.
The first consideration might come as a surprise. But the absolute foundation of any physical therapist skills should be empathy. And in particular a physical therapist needs to have a solid grasp of pain empathy. This is sometimes bolstered by specific academic study. Psychology, for example, can help someone better articulate themselves with a client. And likewise, it can help facilitate conversation with a client to analyze their specific needs.
A physical therapist can’t be expected to know a person’s body better than they themselves do. But when talking to a client they’ll want to explore what areas and actions are feasible. This is often the very start of a solid fitness plan for a client. It’s not at all unusual for these discussions to pinpoint problem areas the client wasn’t even aware of.
The importance of this stage can be seen fairly easily by considering a client with mobility issues. Our example client has suffered a severe sprain to her knee. When talking to the client our physical therapist would be able to pick up on some misconceptions. The sprain involved a torn meniscus. The client assumed she would want to avoid any exercise with that limb. But the physical therapist would pick that up when talking to her. As such, she’d then be able to explain that it just places limitations on the range of motion rather than forbidding it entirely.
The end result in this situation would be a patient who was able to exercise a healing limb. This can hold off muscle atrophy while also allowing for proper integration of scar tissue into the area surrounding the torn meniscus. And of course, the physical therapist would be able to offer up a variety of exercises to enhance the speed and efficiency of the process.
If the physical therapist had just gone by a strict diagnosis without empathy and conversation she wouldn’t have picked up on the client’s misconceptions. In the end, it’s obviously important for a physical therapist to have a wide skill set within the various areas of physical fitness. But all of these tools are best used on top of an underlying foundation of communication and empathy.