How to gain the most benefit from your visit to a physiotherapist

By Melanie Galbraith (physiotherapist)

Living with a painful condition makes it extremely difficult to participate in exercise. Reduced physical capacity leads to muscle weakness and deconditioning. This then makes ‘normal daily tasks’ like showering and dressing, more of a struggle.

A safe, effective strategy for increasing your physical function is one using ‘pacing principles’. A ‘paced’ activity program is one that regulates what you do by getting you to work out what you can easily do consistently - usually on a daily basis. A physiotherapist will be able to help you to work out your ‘baseline’ or starting point - using a timer or counting the number of repetitions, and then slowly increasing it over time by 10% per week. The catch-phrase “no pain, no gain” has been replaced with “start low, go slow!”

It is helpful to ask yourself these questions and also to be informed as to how you could gain more benefit. Firstly, what are your valued goals? What activities are you finding difficult or have stopped completely due to your pain condition? Some examples may be; being able to get down onto the floor to play with your grandchildren or doing some gardening. If you already have a goal in mind when you visit the physiotherapist, she/he can work with you to help you to achieve it.

The physiotherapist will assist you to ‘break the goal down into its building blocks’ and set you an individualised exercise program using pacing principles. This should ensure you can perform the exercises consistently while avoiding pain flares. If the goal is important to you (and you can feel the benefit over time), you will be more motivated to stick with it!

One of THE most beneficial exercises is sit-to-stand. If you do this repeatedly a number
of times, you will notice your heart rate increases and you may even puff a little. It is also
strengthening your leg muscles. Importantly, it is a ‘functional’ exercise - one that we do in our normal daily life. Many people with persistent pain alter the way they move which can make this task more difficult. I have set out below the ‘steps’ to follow
to correct this movement pattern which makes it much easier!

Reproduced with the permission of: