We want to motivate our clients to do their part in progressing towards their therapeutic goals. A common problem I see is that patients who don’t understand won’t be motivated to do their part in the way they need to in order to make progress. Our patients have the most significant ability to have a positive or negative impact on their bodies. We see them for 1-2 hours a week or month, and they are in control for the rest of the time.
If a patient isn’t motivated they are not going to make the changes they need to make to have a positive effect on their health. Even if they are motivated, if they don’t understand then they don’t have the information they need to make good decisions. We have to educate them to help them find the motivation they need.
Patients need to understand how things benefit or hurt them. Making lifestyle changes is hard, and we want to make it as easy as possible for our patients. We want to give them as much motivation as possible. We want them to make good, smart, practical decisions and to do that they need to have a full understanding of what we need them to do and why.
We might motivate someone to exercise, but without explaining exactly how to exercise they might injure themselves more. We might need them to exercise a specific area of their body, but we also need to tell them how to exercise it so that the recommendations are effective in helping the patient progress towards their goals. In many cases, we need to convince patients to NOT do certain exercises that they mistakenly think will help!
So How Do We Do This?
- Don’t be vague. Many massage practitioners fall into this trap. So many massage therapists tell every single client to drink more water and get more rest as they go out the door. This is good advice, but it’s way too vague. Nothing is motivating about this because there are no concrete instructions.
- Explain the Why’s and Don’t be afraid to get detailed. Tell your patients how much water, with a specific range in ounces, and tell them why they need to drink that much. Divide their body weight in half. This is the go-to number of ounces of water they need to be drinking every day. Explain that the body triages water and that the muscle tissues are lowest on the totem pole. The more soft tissue a patient has, the more water they need to drink to keep themselves properly hydrated with ALL the areas of their body seeing the benefits
- Use Laymen’s terms. A lot of therapists are proud of the medical terminology they have and want to use it to show their validity. However, this patient is already on your table. They believe in your validity. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be there. Your patient needs to comprehend. They need to be able to do something with the information you are giving them. I use a lot of illustrations when I explain things to my patients. It helps to give them a visual.
- It’s Okay to Use Examples That are Not Accurate Medically: I do always qualify with the patient that I am simplifying an example for them, and it is not entirely accurate. An example of how I do this is when explaining cortisone. I compare it to injecting or orally taking acid. Is that medically accurate? No. But, it is scientifically proven that these treatments cause lesions and corrosion similar to an acidic material. By using this example, I give the patient an exacerbated visual of what is happening in their body, and they can comprehend how the treatments they are getting destabilizes the area and how it works. The patient understands you are using an exaggerated example to teach them, but now they know why you say they need to rest and be cautious for a minimum of two weeks after a cortisone treatment. Now they are likely to think about that and remember when they all of a sudden feel outstanding after the injection.
One of the reasons why people often don’t explain things in a way that a patient can understand is that it takes time. It takes 10 seconds to tell someone to drink more water and get more rest, but it might take 10 minutes to explain why. Taking the time to explain this kind of thing to your patients is what sets the good orthopedic massage therapists apart from the great ones. To learn other tips about how to be a great orthopedic massage therapist join my Facebook Group.