Goals are just as important when it comes to physical therapy as with any other aspect of life. The purpose of a goal is to provide long-term vision and short-term motivation. These impact your expectations and help measure your progress as you work towards recovery.
Here are some of the best ways to set and manage goals when it comes to physical therapy.
IT TAKES TWO
Your physical therapist is on your side and wants you to succeed. They will encourage you to participate in prescribed therapy in order to achieve your treatment goals. According to the Physical Therapy Journal, the official scientific journal of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA):
“Participation, in our view, should improve outcomes and could be used to identify benefits that may result from the treatment. These benefits include greater goal attainment, increased patient satisfaction, gains in function, better adherence to treatment regimens, decreased depression in patients, and reduced burnout rates among physical therapists.”
BE SPECIFIC WHEN DEFINING GOALS
You want to be as specific as possible when setting goals. Wanting to regain your full range of motion is clinically accurate, but when you reframe your goal to an action you want to perform, it has more weight and meaning. For instance, your goal can be festive like wanting to be able to dance at your daughter’s wedding or mundane like being able to put your socks and shoes on without pain. When you tie your goal to a specific act it makes the goal more tangible and less abstract.
MAKE YOUR GOALS MEASURABLE
This goes together with being specific. Create goals with measurable milestones. If you can attach numbers to each milestone in your goal you can track progress. It is important to know where you started and where you are at.
YOUR GOALS NEED TO BE ATTAINABLE
It is good to strive towards an aspirational outcome. It is also important to have goals you can attain and recognize milestones you create along the way. Work with your physical therapist to determine what is attainable.
REMIND YOURSELF OF THE GOAL
Keeping your eyes on the prize helps keep you motivated and inspired. Focus on the desired outcome even when you are not in the clinic or at home doing the physical therapy. Again, this is when milestones are extremely helpful. These smaller goals that lead up to the big one help you get to the next measurable outcome.
ATTACH A TIME FRAME FOR ACHIEVING THE GOAL
Work with your physical therapist to determine a time (or a window of time) of when you can achieve your goal. As with all aspects of goal-setting, you will want to create goals that are realistic and reachable. You don’t necessarily have to hit your goal on a set date and time, but words like, “someday” and “eventually” are not well-defined—and definitely not measurable.
BRING UP GOALS, EVEN IF YOUR PHYSICAL THERAPIST DOESN’T
Increasingly, therapists understand that the more involved a patient feels in goal setting, the greater the outcome. Most of them will start by asking what your goals are. In order to have full confidence that you are involved in goal setting, make sure you mention your goals as well. Being proactive in the process will increase your sense of ownership in the process.
Overall, make sure you and your physical therapist have an on-going conversation about your goals and expectations. If you have goals that are personally important and meaningful to you, your time spent in the physical therapy session along with the home program will have a purpose and you will be more likely to have a satisfying outcome.
Renew Your Body, Reclaim Your Life!