Choosing a good physiotherapist is a key step in your recovery. We’ve put together a list of signs of great physios and things to look for specifically for recovering from orthopedic surgery.
- The most important thing is that you feel comfortable with your therapist.
You’re going to be spending a whole lot of time with them, and knowing that they’re going to be helpful to you, do their job well and have your best interest at heart is going to help you by making you more likely to see the process through all the way to the end and make you more likely to keep your appointments.
This is something you may have never had to think about before, but some clinics (especially in bigger cities) can be tricky to get into on crutches or in a wheelchair. Be sure to ask how accessible the clinic is. If there are stairs, how comfortable are you going up and down them? Don’t put yourself at risk unnecessarily. Also consider how long of a walk it is, especially if it’s the beginning. You might not have the endurance to walk 5 minutes from the parking lot to the clinic.
Obviously, it is super important that the treatment you’re getting works. If it doesn’t there’s no point in going. That said, you can’t expect to see a drastic change after each appointment, but you should see a difference in strength, pain or mobility (or some combination) at the end of each treatment, even if it’s just a minor one. Overall you should also be improving week over week. You’ll have days where you may regress a little, but it shouldn’t be long-term and it shouldn’t be too significant.
Being informed about your treatment is a factor in your success. If you know why you’re doing each exercise, you’re more likely to do it. If you know why you’re getting a treatment, you’ll be more likely to go and less likely to feel particularly discouraged if it is difficult or painful. If you ever leave feeling more confused then when you went in, you need to get more information from your therapist. You might need to ask more questions, but if you’re not getting clear answers, they may not be the right therapist.
- Time (part 1)
Obviously, you need to be able to get in to see your therapist. You’re going to need to get in to see them pretty frequently. If they can’t fit you in as much as you’d like to go in, they’re not the right fit. If you have a really hard time getting an appointment, even if they’re otherwise a great therapist, you may need to look elsewhere. This is going to be a long recovery, and it’ll only be longer if you can’t get an appointment.
- Time (part 2)
There’s a reason time is important in two ways in your recovery. You need to get an appointment, but there’s another way time factors in that may not be as obvious. You also need to get enough time with your therapist in each appointment. If you’ve only got 15 minutes with your therapist, they don’t have a lot of time to build a personalized plan and execute it. It also isn’t easy to effectively treat an injury from outside the room. If you spend more time alone with a machine than with your therapist each appointment, there’s probably a more effective treatment option.
The recovery is hard. You need someone who you feel is in your corner. If you don’t feel like your therapist gets your pain or other symptoms they’re not the right therapist for you. In an ideal world, they’re a support person for you. Someone you can tell about the challenges who’ll help you get past them. Don’t settle for a physio who makes you feel like a number, rather than a person.
- Personalized treatment
Not everyone is the same, so not every treatment plan should be. Your physio should take into account your body, your injury, how well you’re healing, your pain levels and a whole lot of other factors. If they’re not asking a lot of questions and changing things up, they may be treating based on a protocol for your injury, rather than your specific case. This plan might work perfectly for you, but it also might not, and that’s all based on luck. Don’t rely on luck, rely on a therapist who is building a plan for you.
- Teaching Techniques
You’re going to need to learn/re-learn a lot and your physio is going to need to teach you most or all of them. Make sure they explain things in a way you understand, are patient and check back in on how your exercises are going.
- Long-term recovery support
Do they have a plan for getting you back to your regular life? What is the plan beyond walking? Are they going to give you a sport-specific plan? Are they focused just on getting you back to minimum mobility? Do they think you’ll get back to your regular activity? (Spoiler: they should. Your body might be a little different, but it isn’t changed in a bad way forever) You want to be striving for the injured limb to match up with the other side.