Terminology and advice. It’s a hot topic amongst those who lead the way in the space of beliefs, therapeutic influence and therapeutic consequences at the moment. The power of words from people in positions of influence has come more and more under scrutiny as we learn more about the human mind, body and behaviour around injury.
It’s something that a lot of us don’t consider. One of those things that we take for granted, particularly as consumers, that the people who we are receiving service from are experts, and are giving us the right information. We often naively presume this is the case, then go on to form our own opinion and thoughts, incorporating that information into our own paradigm.
This is all well and good, provided the person providing the information is actually hitting the mark.
So as we start to learn more and spend more time understanding these influences, we get a clearer understanding in Physiotherapy, just how influential our words can be. The terminology, description and advice we give can resonate profoundly with people. I hope this is the case with all my patients, and hence I do my utmost to ensure the words and descriptions I use are not only as accurate as possible, but are also tailored appropriately to the patient I am working with.
For example, if a patient arrives to a clinic with back pain, and they have a friend or family member who had a poor experience with a similar injury, or have read somewhere that back pain can be devastating, they may already have sown their own seed of belief and concern. The words and advice given to that person will blend with their paradigm and either appropriately neutralise the situation, or potentially set the patient on a downward spiral. There’s a lot to it, but it means we as clinicians and patients equally need to be aware of the conversations we have and that they are clear, accurate and well understood.
So for the patient, their onus is to ensure they understand what, how and why, as well as what needs to be done to aid them in their recovery. If this information isn’t made clear, then it needs to be questioned. If things aren’t improving or changing, it needs to also be questioned. Trusting health care professionals is important, but with so many variations on the theme now present in our community, the trust in the professional needs to be founded. If it doesn’t feel right or sound right, the patient should be able to question that.
After all, it’s your body and your future.