Flip Your Thinking

One of the major contributing factors to assisting people to overcome injury is demystifying their diagnosis and beliefs until a point is reached that they believe they will get better. Empowering clients through positive language and interactions can result in vastly different outcomes to negative language and interactions. Our families and social networks along with trusted industry professionals sometimes unwittingly plant the seeds for failure attempting to relate and sympathise. Just because you have a back injury and your best friend had a back injury does not mean your rehabilitation will take the same path. One of the most debilitating things that we see as practitioners is the belief that something will take longer to get better than the pathology suggests, due to a belief created by someone the client knows who happened to have similar injury and ‘it took them’ a year or more to get better.

So how do you convince someone who has established unhelpful beliefs around their injury that the people they trust (their nearest and dearest) could be wrong. Typical approaches have seen a science focus with facts and numbers being used to demystify injuries, however ominous sounding language can further confuse patients with an increase in the belief that they have a diagnosis and pathology, and therefore what they are experiencing is to be expected. Patients believe they have been diagnosed with so many problems it should take a ‘long time’ to get better. If as practitioners, we can change the way we empower patients and assist with unhelpful beliefs we move from being part of the problem to part of the solution. Encouraging patients to move rather than encouraging them to avoid. In this way the ‘emotional’ energy expenditure that has been focused at not moving can be rerouted to get moving and get better simply by changing the way we deliver information.

When dealing with a friend or family member we can adopt the same approach using positive language to encourage whilst empathising with the situation. Simple changes can be very powerful, make plans for ‘when’ you are better, not ‘if’ you get better. If you have had a similar injury think of helpful advice ‘I am back playing golf’, not ‘it took me two years to play golf again’. ‘It felt better when I started walking’ not ‘it hurt to bend’. Simple changes can be very powerful switch your thinking from the negatives to the positives empowering recovery and resilience rather than reliance and entrenchment.

Ingrid Hand – Exercise Rehabilitation Manager – Accredited Exercise Physiologist (ESSA)
(BSc – ExHealthSc, GraddipSc, ExRehab MSc, HumMvt)

Armstrong, MJ., Mottershead, TA., Ronksley, PE., Sigal, RJ., Campbell, TS., & Hemmelgarn, BR. (2011). Motivational interviewing to improve weight loss in overweight and/or obese patients: a systematic review and meta‐analysis of randomized controlled trials. Obesity Reviews, 12(9), 709-723.