patient communication

Communication with Patients

A patient came to see me the other day with an exacerbation of his chronic low back pain. He told me of a previous episode of physiotherapy treatment a few years back and how the physiotherapist would repeatedly tell him that, “Movement is life… Movement is life… Movement is life.” The patient admitted to me that at the time he just thought, “That’s all very well, but how does that help me? What use is that to me?” Yet now, he tells me that it finally makes sense to him and it actually helps him a great deal. While he is moving he is painfree and he has therefore realized that if he modifies his lifestyle to minimize and break up any sedentary tasks he can be painfree. That’s life-changing. Movement really is the key.

From this brief conversation, I learned a lot – not that ‘movement is life’ because I think as physiotherapists and yoga teachers our belief in that mantra is a given – but about our interactions with patients.

  • Firstly, it is clearly a reminder to us that we need to do our best to ensure the patient understands the full impact and meaning of what we are saying rather than just repeating the same words again and again.
  • Communication is so important and the next learning point for me was that patients really do remember what we say and the words we speak and the advice we give can actually help them years after the appointment took place.
  • That brings me onto the third lesson: If patients remember our words (not just until the next session, but for years to come) then it is so important that we choose the right words! I previously wrote a post entitled The Power of Our Words in which I told of Masaru Emoto’s experiments into the effect of our words on the molecular structure of water. With that in mind, it becomes even more important that the words we use are empowering. Our words can become beliefs that patients will cling to and, as Emoto has shown, have the potential to heal or harm. ‘Movement is life’ is a positive mantra but how often do we glibly use the phrase ‘wear and tear’ for example?

I don’t think this is new information for any of us, but for me it served as a reminder.