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.


  • Candy Kage

    I had an 86 year old tell me as long as you keep moving that is key to living longer.

  • As someone from the patient side of things, I absolutely agree with you on the power of words. As soon as I connect with a doctor and trust them, I take whatever advice they have give me as pure gold, because they’re the knowledgeable ones in their field. I’ve learned the hard way though that that’s not always the case – especially when a doctor’s own ego/greed takes priority over their patients. But of course that only makes compassionate doctors/therapists like yourself that much more amazing and valuable!

  • Fiona Simmonds

    Thank you so much for your lovely comment Jessica. Yes, I think the ego is something we all struggle to overcome on some level and there can be a fine line between ego and confidence, and between confidence and expertise. Whilst the healthcare professionals do have the medical knowledge, patients know their own bodies and thus I think it is vital that the two ‘sides’ work together.

  • Dia

    I love what you said about communication being so important, it’s easy to hear something or tell someone something but not always easy to be sure they really understand it.

  • Cori

    I know many older (65+) knitters and crocheters, and they’ve repeatedly said, the slight pain from arthritis while crafting is worth it compare to what it would be if they stopped completely.

  • Words are powerful for it can make or break a person. The words which are thoroughly explained give good results in the communication process. It produces understanding and learning. It helps a person and can build good relationships as well.

  • Peng Desuyo

    I agree. I am a nurse and sometimes because we are so unfamiliar with the jargons, we feel that the patients understand them too, when in fact they don’t. Communication is very very important.

  • Carola

    Words indeed have so much power. It’s important to choose them carefully. When you’re talking to a patient, but also in many other circumstances. Is a great reminder to be careful and think about the message we want to give!

  • There really is power in our words and as a teacher/therapist, your patients would really value what you say to them especially because you’re in a place of authority. But it is also true to different relationships. How we communicate to them can also affect or transform their life. Based on the many relationship stories I’ve heard, the problems failed marriages always have is their lack of communication. Two people who supposedly love each other do not even talk anymore and do not connect to each other.