Physio Talks – Problems and Their Lessons

This Physio Talks is a bit philosophical, but was, again, prompted by a few people who came to see me in the clinic, one right after the other. Whenever that happens I figure there is something to write about there.
Ever come across the cliché “A problem is just a lesson in disguise.”? Like most all clichés it can set your teeth on edge, but sooner or later I have to come to grips with the fact that it, like most clichés is true. The folks coming into the clinic each had different difficulties, a severe ankle sprain, a bad shoulder, and a back problem, but each had yet to come to grips with some of the inescapable consequences.
Each person was in a hurry to get past the difficulties presented by their injuries, each was more than a little impatient, and each had things to do that needed doing right then. So, we had to go back to the basics. An injury heels at a certain rate, depending on the tissue injured and the severity of the injury. Also in the mix was the particular tissue injured, since sometimes a particular tissue has less circulation than other similar ones and therefore takes even longer to heal than ones of similar type but better circulation.
So, the fellow with the shoulder had recent surgery for his rotator cuff, and the rotator cuff takes longer to heal than say a knee ligament. The fellow with the ankle sprain had a really bad and unconventional sprain, pulling tendons and muscles with it, and the person with the back problem had hay to get in before the rain (which still has not come this dry Taranaki summer). The same speech went to each one; we have to cooperate with what we have. We cannot impose a faster healing time than the tissue allows, and we certainly should refrain from overloading an incompletely healed tissue simply because our schedule does not seem to match the restrictions of the injury. Cooperation is the key. Attempting to dominate will cause the person to lose. In a contest with the body’s healing processes, the body always wins.
So, the lessons for each one of these people to take were patience, cooperation, and accommodation. Find another way for now, and relax into the healing process. I will try to get them going as fast as I think the healing will allow, but faster and we are all asking for trouble. I know, because I have been in the exact same boat, and somehow convinced myself that the rules did not really apply to me. After all, I’m a physio, right? And I lost, took much longer to regain the ground that had been overshot by my patience. Best suggestion is to learn the lessons the problem is presenting. Things will go better, faster and we will be better for it in the long run, short run too.

Dave Rohe is a recently retired physio having practiced in New Zealand since 2004. He originally qualified in the USA, subsequently practicing in Malawi, Egypt and Cambodia prior to emigrating to New Zealand in 2003. He has enjoyed management positions in pediatric and adult outpatient facilities as well as taught physiotherapy for 15 years at the University of Georgia. He is currently living in Parakai with his wife, Sharon Robinson, a local midwife, near his adult children who are working, and one of whom is studying to qualify as a physio through the programme at the University of Otago. His articles previously appeared in local newspapers in Taranaki and on the blog site sponsored by NZSPT.

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