Whether it’s the latest smartphone or taking a short course, we all want to make the most out of anything we spend valuable time and money on. This attitude could be rooted in the fact that we want to make good use of our limited resources, or we simply want to improve ourselves and come out at the end of a class session or a product’s life a much better person. And it’s no different when it comes to your physical therapy.
When your physician recommends that you undergo physical therapy, you submit yourself to a highly individualized program—which consists of education, functional training, manipulative techniques, and therapeutic exercises, among others—created by your physical therapist (PT). This program is usually developed in collaboration with your prosthetist to ensure that your prosthesis will be uniquely tailor-fit to your body and is able to adapt well to how you move.
How your PT and other healthcare providers choose a treatment strategy for your rehabilitation journey depends on a lot of factors, such as your previous and current functional level, strength, endurance, health, and your goals or the things you want to be able to do after your program.
Knowing that there is a lot at stake in your physical therapy, you may want to get a reputable PT. However, the success of your physical therapy is largely dependent on your efforts—regardless of how good your PT is. This is why it always helps to know what to expect from your PT or from your physical therapy program.
If you are about to embark on your own rehabilitation journey, treat this as your class orientation. And to set you up for success, we’ve outlined some helpful tips for you below:
1. Look for the right Physical Therapist
Just like choosing a prosthetist, looking for the right PT is going to require a bit of research. Although any PT may do just fine, it’s always best to seek out one who is knowledgeable about working with amputees to ensure that you will get a specialized approach.
2. Talk with your Physical Therapist before your amputation
If possible, schedule a call or a meeting with your chosen PT before your amputation. This way, you can discuss what to expect after the amputation, which can help you better prepare for the crucial post-operative phase. Depending on the treatment strategy you and your PT have agreed on, you may also have to start the program even before your amputation.
3. Set short- and long-term goals
Many productivity experts and motivational speakers extol the benefits of setting short- and long-term goals. This does not only allow you to better track your progress, but it is also one of the best ways to ensure success. But before you write down your goals, consult your PT, who can help you see how realistic the milestones are. Without your PT’s expert advice, you may find yourself setting goals that will eventually work against you. Unmet goals have a way of discouraging you from the entire process, so set your own goals with caution.
4. After amputation surgery, work on regaining movement independency
During the post-operation phase, it’s critical that you maintain or regain strength as well as your body’s range of motion, both of which are essential for you to seamlessly transition to your new lifestyle. You may need to work on some goals during this phase, like getting in and out of bed, using the bathroom, and getting in and out of a care on your own. You may want to use a walker or crutches, especially during the first few days or weeks, to help prepare your body for these movements. Working on these goals may not be easy but it is necessary.
It’s also important to remember that at this time, the risk of falling and impeding your progress is high. So, practice with extreme caution. Once you can safely and independently get around your house, it’s time to start the next phase—using a prosthesis.
5. Prepare your body to use a prosthesis
At this point, your Physical Therapist will help you devise and stick to a personalized plan to move forward in your rehabilitation journey. The approach will greatly depend on your unique needs and abilities. To create the plan, your PT will take into consideration your body’s need for recovery, increased strength, and improved balance, all of which will help you function independently with your prosthesis. So, don’t get discouraged if you see that your PT’s plan may take a bit longer than you initially expected. Instead, focus on working through the program one day at a time.
During this period, you can expect your Physical Therapist to work on shrinking and reshaping the size of your residual limb. This is because, even after the surgical wound has healed, your residual limb can still be swollen. And swelling must be reduced so that your residual limb will perfectly fit into the socket of your prosthesis. You can also expect your PT to prescribe a compression stocking to reshape your residual limb.
Other steps your PT may take to prepare you for your prosthesis may include the following: properly positioning your residual limb, stretching and strengthening your muscles, and establishing a daily limb care and hygiene routine.
6. Remember that a prosthesis is just a tool
There were many before you who expected that everything will be better as soon as they don their prosthesis. Let’s manage expectation and keep in mind that your prosthesis is not a magical tool. Even the best, top-of-the-line ones will not make everything better as soon as you put it on. But you can work on getting better by being consistent with your therapy. This is the only way to ensure that you are ready when it arrives.
7. Learn how to use your prosthesis properly
While the responsibility of using your prosthesis properly is up to you, you can ask your PT to teach you how to manage your movements so you can use your prosthesis in a safe and effective manner.
Also, make sure that you are always in good physical shape. This is because the more you learn to use your prosthesis and the better shape you are in, the more energy-efficient you will be. This is extremely important because using a prosthesis requires a lot of energy. At this point in your rehabilitation journey, your PT and prosthetist will also need to work together to fine-tune your prosthesis to meet your unique needs.
8. Learn as much as you can
Your Physical Therapist can teach you how to increase your strength and endurance as well as how to use your prosthesis properly, but the mental work—knowing the benefits of your physical therapy—is entirely up to you. And the more you know, the better your therapy will be. So, read relevant resources, ask questions from experts (aside from your PT, your prosthetist is also an excellent choice!), and talk to other amputees who can support you in your rehabilitation journey. When you’ve learned as much as you can about your new lifestyle, you can better motivate yourself. And the better you motivate yourself, the faster you’ll achieve your goals.
9. Maximize, maximize, maximize
Do not leave any stone unturned. Examine your insurance policy for benefits that can help you make the most out of your rehabilitation journey. Also, you can maximize your physical therapy by asking your Physical Therapist to teach you exercises that you can do on your own at home.
10. Remember that good Physical Therapists are teachers
Your Physical Therapist can offer you a lot of support during the entire process, but they won’t be around for long. Remember that the goal of a physical therapy program is to seamlessly transition you into your new lifestyle and pave the way for your independence. So, listen, ask as many questions as you can, and soak up everything from your sessions. This way, you can put in your best work and, before you know it, achieve your goals.
Going through physical therapy is tough. There will be some discomfort along the way as you work towards a better and healthier body that is equipped to take you through your new lifestyle. But the good news is that there are a lot of people who will support you, such as your PT. So, go into every session with a positive mindset, preferably one that allows you to get the most out of the experience. Before you know it, you regain your independence, ready to get the most out of life.