So, it’s important for me to have an open line of communication with the patient, okay, so that I know that what I’m instructing them is consistent with their healing process.
Well, one of the biggest components that I see that gets in the way of healing the spine and restoring your normal activity is some of the chronicity that takes place with a back problem. You have certain limitations you start placing on yourself. You have family issues that come about. All that starts playing a major role in a patient’s mindset. And so, it’s important for me to spend some time trying to improve that mindset, okay. I can tell people that I take care of peoples’ bodies from their neck to their toes and I don’t have anything to do with what’s between the ears.
And, sometimes all you need to do is say, “we just need to succeed with one thing,” okay. And, that one thing might be what do you do when you get out of bed in the morning that can help your back? And, those small successes then become a new activity because one of the biggest things that works against that positive mindset is yourself. I can’t do this. If I do that, it’s gonna cause this problem. If I can’t do that, what’s my wife gonna think? If I can’t get back to work in time, am I gonna have a job waiting for me? Okay. So, it’s very important to take a step back and look at what small successes can you start building and from there start moving forward and building on those small successes.
Our social relationships are very important. And, with back pain, that can get in the way of our social relationships. It’s one thing to have a relationship that’s not going well at work, but when it is with our loved one, and I mean a wife or husband, and that includes sexual relationships, that can become a big problem. When we’re dealing with returning to sexual relationships after surgery, or even with a chronic back issue, there has to be exploration that comes into play. No pun intended. You need to be able to try different positions. You need to think about positions that you would normally sit, stand, lie down and how those positions normally would feel with your back.
And, it might start off that you spend time with your loved one and try those positions with your clothes on and anywhere in the house is okay. Okay, you need to find and make fun of it. You need to laugh a little bit. Wherever you might find yourself, there is a huge area for developing and maximizing your intimacy level.
Patients have expectations coming out of the surgery. One patient’s expectation might be that they’re going to get back and play golf three days a week. That may not be a realistic expectation. You have to set the goals low to begin with and realize success. And, once you start realizing success at a lower level, you can start building to an intermediate level. So, they’re not overshooting what they’re expectations are and if I can get somebody to do more than I initially said that they were going to be able to accomplish, that is a success because then the patient starts to see that they had a major role in that.
As a physical therapist of 27 plus years, the most gratifying part of my profession is to be able to have somebody walk in in one condition and walk out in an improved condition. It’s being able to have the guy come in and telling me he’s, you know, a six handicap now and he was a 12 handicap. It’s the fellow that just lost 30 pounds, okay, and he might be taken off of his statin drugs because he’s losing his weight. It’s having some influence over the patients that come to see me and their health.