Adopting a Biopsychosocial Approach to Recovery

Over the past 6 years working as an Accredited Exercise Physiologist I have treated hundreds of musculoskeletal injuries with the majority within the worker’s compensation scheme. It didn’t take me long to come to the realisation that recovering from an injury is so much more than simply overcoming a physical hurdle. It is also about over coming mental hurdles. For many of my patients this is often the hardest part. As such my role as an Exercise Physiologist is so much more than just prescribing physical rehabilitation exercises. It is also largely about providing support and coaching, by adopting a psychosocial approach.

Positive Attitude: A positive attitude is everything. If you approach your recovery process with a negative frame of mind you are setting yourself up for a negative outcome. Prescribing exercise rehabilitation to a patient with a negative attitude is a common challenge. I am not a psychologist however I have also personally dealt with a severe ankle injury and I know how frustrating it is. My advice to adopting a positive attitude is to allow yourself the time to be annoyed initially but know what is done is done and dwelling on the past incident and acting the ‘victim’ for a prolonged period will only increase your recovery time.

Set Realistic Goals: In my experience patients usually have an end goal of returning to their pre-injury function, however having one big goal can be daunting and appear unachievable. Therefore, it is important to also set some smaller goals along the way. I recommend setting goal’s relating to activities of daily living. For example, being able to hang out washing or reach into top cupboards if you are suffering a shoulder injury. This will provide some stepping stones and small victories along the way to achieving the bigger picture.

Focus on what you can do and keep moving: Focussing on what you can do and not what you can’t do is extremely important. Just because you are injured doesn’t mean you need to stop everything. For example, if you have an upper limb injury get out and go for a walk. When I suffered my ankle injury I took the opportunity to focus on improving upper body strength and achieved many personal bests in this area. Exercise produces endorphins and can help counteract those negative feelings associated with being injured and feeling broken. If you are injured and unsure on what exercise is appropriate for you, speak to an exercise physiologist to get advice and ideas.

Follow your rehab programme: This may sound obvious however many patient’s stray from their given rehabilitation programme following exercises given to them by friends or perhaps that they have witnessed from other gym goers. Performing exercises outside of your given programme although may feel like your helping can be very detrimental to the recovery process and you can end up causing further damage.

Recovery is not straight forward: It is important to understand that recovery has its ups and downs. It is completely normal to experience setbacks however it is important not to let this hold you back. If you experience a physical set back such as a flare up of symptoms allow yourself time to rest, however as soon as this has calmed down get back into it. If it is a psychological or a social setback such as family emergency talk it out. As your exercise physiologist we understand that life happens, and we are more than happy to listen and provide assistance where possible.

In the end everyone is different, and everyone will have a slightly different recovery experience. The above mentioned is simply advice based on my experiences with patients and may not work for everyone, however it will give you a good guide to tackling your recovery head on. If you have suffered an injury and would like some guidance keeping you on track with your recovery contact an Exercise Physiologist at Absolute Balance for a consultation. You can contact us on

Phoebe Trolio (BSc – ExHealthSc, GraddipSc – ExRehab)
Senior Accredited Exercise Physiologist (AEP) (ESSAM)

P 9244 5580 – M  0499 909 596  – F 9244 5582


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Shepherd, W, & Godin, G. Psychosocial factors influencing intentions to exercise in young student from grade 6-9 . Research quarterly for exercise and sport. 2013; 12 (1) 41 – 52.