Dear Dr. Yael,
I am struggling with my physical health. I have a lot of pain because of my medical issues and nothing seems to help. I tried working with a personal trainer who came to my apartment, but he wasn’t very knowledgeable about my medical conditions. My doctor suggested that I try physical therapy. However, the clinic he told me to use is very busy. The physical therapists there treat so many people at once that I get no attention. With COVID-19, I’m also extra nervous being around so many people because of my pre-existing conditions. Should I stick with the physical therapy despite my worries? What do you think I should do?
I truly understand your concerns. The world is a very different place right now. You have every right to be apprehensive about being treated in public settings. I’m not sure what your medical conditions are, but it seems as though going to a crowded physical therapy clinic is not ideal for you. However, your health is very important and your current medical conditions should be treated appropriately.
I personally have an amazing physical therapist who comes to my home. I feel very safe in the comfort of my own den and the individual attention has been extremely beneficial to my well-being. I highly recommend this course of treatment for you. Firstly, you cannot compare the level of training and schooling of a physical therapist to that of a personal trainer. My physical therapist has a doctorate degree and many years of experience. As a health professional, he understands my medical needs. He provides me with a comprehensive recovery plan that he adjusts at every visit depending on my progress.
In addition, all his equipment is sanitized, or one-time-use, and he always wears appropriate PPE. As I mentioned before, the individual attention is the best part. At most clinics that I’ve visited in the past, therapists have spent just a few minutes with me before leaving me alone for the remainder of the session. I have often felt ignored and uneasy about performing therapy exercises on my own. With my current physical therapist, I get an entire session with his full attention and my recovery has been faster as a result. I was also referred to a few clinics, but always felt that they did not give me the attention I needed to recover.
If you would like to contact my physical therapist, here is his information: Dr. Zvi Gutman, DPT. (646) 481-7854 . www.gutmanpt.com (Accepts Medicare, Medicaid and most insurance. No additional fee for the home visit.)
From a psychological point of view, have you ever tried psychological techniques to reduce your pain? Research has shown that because pain includes both the mind and the body, mind-body therapies may have the ability to reduce pain by altering the way you perceive it.
The following techniques can help you take your mind off the pain and can possibly even work to override established pain signals.
Deep Breathing. Deep breathing is the core technique that needs to be learned as it will be used in many of the other techniques. In order to use this technique correctly, you need to inhale deeply through your nose, hold your breath for a few seconds, and then exhale very slowly through your mouth. You should be able to physically feel a difference after doing this technique correctly. To help you focus, you can close your eyes. This brings us to the second important technique which is imagery.
Imagery. Imagery is when you close your eyes and imagine something peaceful to you. Many people enjoy thinking of the beach, but with imagery, you will “see” the beach in your mind, as if you’re actually there. Using imagery with deep breathing usually makes the techniques more effective and generally helps people maintain their focus better. Listening to calming music can also enhance this technique for some people and help them stay more relaxed.
Progressive Relaxation. Progressive relaxation involves you mentally relaxing each part of your body in order. This will relax all of your muscles, and usually can be done while concentrating on deep breathing and relaxing each muscle/body pet in order. You can use an app or a recording or walk yourself through this by verbally saying, “now my arm will relax, it will feel like it has no weight,” etc. Some therapists will make you a tape to help walk you through each step of this relaxation technique. When thoughts break through, return to the breathing repetition and start over. Continue doing this for 10 to 20 minutes. Afterward, sit quietly for a minute or two while your thoughts return. Then you can open your eyes and sit quietly for another minute to help your body transition and maintain a relaxed state.
Hypnosis. Hypnosis can be helpful for some people in alleviating pain. Make sure to see someone who is certified in hypnosis and can help you reduce your pain.
Positive Thinking. When we are sick we may feel that we will never get better and we often focus on what we cannot do instead of what we can do. Refocusing our thoughts to focus on what we can do will help make you feel better about yourself and feel better in general. Many people like to write down 5 things they are thankful for daily to help them retrain their brain to think more positively. Just spending a few minutes each night on positive things about yourself can also help you improve your mood and help reduce pain.
Hatzlocha with reducing your pain and remember that many of these ideas can be used together to help you during this trying time. Please reach out for help from a competent professional for your physical therapy and if you are still suffering, perhaps seeing a psychologist can help you as well!