Shockingly, only 35% of physiotherapy patients actually adhere to their home exercise program (HEP). The other 65% confess that they’re unmotivated, or they didn’t understand the instructions, or the prescribed HEP doesn’t fit into their schedule.

But how do you make sure that your patients belong to the 35%? In this article, we’ve collected 10 tried and tested motivational strategies for physiotherapists.

Clarify your patient’s hopes, desires, and fears

There’s a reason why your patient is undergoing therapy. Your task is to identify this underlying motivation for recovery and foster it.

Do they want to get back to their favorite sport? Do they just miss the time when they could play with their kids without debilitating pain? Or are they doing therapy just because it’s covered by their insurance?

Ask open-ended questions, be genuinely curious about the answers and use techniques such as motivational interviewing to spark patient motivation.

Set relevant and achievable rehabilitation goals

For someone after a severe injury, complete rehabilitation sounds like a vague and distant goal – exactly the kind of goal that encourages procrastination and resistance.

Break the general goal of living a healthy, pain-free life down into baby steps. If you’re not sure how to do it, there’s a handy goal-setting tool that you can borrow: SMART goals.

The concept of SMART goals isn’t just management jargon: it’s a proven method that has been applied across many industries. SMART goals are:

  • Specific;
  • Measurable;
  • Achievable;
  • Relevant;
  • Time-Bound.

Here’s an example of a SMART goal:

For the next week, I’ll start my day with 20 minutes of physical therapy exercises so that I’ll increase the number of reps by 3 by the time of our next appointment.

Provide information about physical therapy

Help your patient understand the healing process in its entirety. You don’t have to go into technical details, but be sure to provide an overview and answer any questions the patient may have.

In physical therapy, motivation largely depends on the amount of progress that the patient makes, and progress is rarely fast and linear. Seeing the big picture will help them stay motivated when there’s a plateau or a temporary setback.

Involve the patient in creating the rehabilitation plan

No one likes to have their freedom taken away from them. Many of your patients already feel helpless and disempowered because of their pain and their injuries. Being forced to do exercises they don’t understand only strengthens the feeling of helplessness.

Instead, help your patients regain a sense of control over their health.

Remember: you’re an expert on physiotherapy, but your patient is the leading expert on themselves. Let their voice be heard when designing the exercise schedule, setting goals and deciding on specific exercises.

This is one of the best ways to motivate patients in physical therapy.

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Make your instructions clear and avoid technical jargon

Some therapists think that using medical and technical jargon makes them appear more competent. However, jargon only confuses patients and creates unnecessary barriers.

When bombarded with technical terms, your patient may feel too foolish and confused to ask questions, so they’ll just quietly ignore the HEP instead.

Quite often, patients don’t have any questions during the therapy session itself but get somewhat confused when doing the HEP. If you’re using a web service or an app to design exercise programs, choose one that lets you add personalized comments and contains video demonstrations of each exercise.

This is especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic when you can’t have regular in-person sessions so any questions have to be answered remotely.

Focus on engagement during rehabilitation exercises

Rehab can last for months, so many people lose motivation along the way. But simply going through the motions is neither fun nor effective. Progress stalls, pain returns, and you’ve got a frustrated patient on your hands.

One proven method to keep patients engaged throughout the entire healing process is gamification and the use of rehab software. Most people enjoy using apps and playing games, and device rehab is even more fascinating because of its sci-fi appeal. There are several technologies to choose from: virtual reality (VR) helmets, letting a Kinect camera read the patient’s movements or fixing sensors on their body.

Modern-day physical therapy software (such as Raccoon.Recovery) relies on the scientifically proven benefits of gamification to keep patients engaged and motivated throughout rehab.  We rely on using sensors as they’re more affordable, mobile, and precise than VR or Kinect cameras. However, when specialized equipment is unavailable due to the lockdown, your patient can use their smartphone instead. And last but not least: Raccoon.Recovery works with any PC game available on the market so your patients can play the games they love most!

In addition, we collect data about the patient’s mood and fatigue levels so you can easily see how the prescribed exercise routine is affecting your patient’s quality of life.

Offer a variety of rehabilitation content

Yes, exercising in water can be useful. But what if your patient hates water? Make sure that you offer a variety of exercises with different kinds of equipment. If your patient says that a particular tool is either unavailable or somehow uncomfortable, offer an alternative.

Every patient expects a customized rehab program based on their unique goals and preferences. So take them seriously and make sure you don’t offer the same program to everyone.

Keep a positive attitude

In physical therapy, progress is rarely quick and linear. Rehabilitation after a major injury may last for months, and setbacks often happen along the way. No wonder patients often get discouraged or even frustrated.

However, empathy and a positive attitude can work magic. Celebrate every win, no matter how small. There’s a clear correlation between positive feedback and patient compliance, so be generous with your praise!

Refine the course according to the patient’s feedback

Take patients’ feedback seriously even if you don’t agree with everything they say. It may be tempting to dismiss their complaints as excuses, but the truth is that many people genuinely can’t find the time to exercise, get easily distracted or hate specific types of equipment.

Help your patient fit the HEP into their schedule. Change or replace exercises that they don’t find effective. Show them how to use the physical therapy application if there’s something they didn’t understand.

Reap the benefits of physical therapy software

The times of photocopied handouts with HEPs are almost gone. Most people rely on their phones and tablets to stay organized and keep track of their health – so why not offer them a physical therapy app?

Physiotherapy software will help you create an engaging, easy-to-understand HEP, complete with detailed explanations, videos and gamification features. Now your patient can no longer say they couldn’t do the HEP because they’ve lost their handout!

We at Raccon.World have been working closely with physical and occupational therapists to create software that would meet the needs of rehab professionals. After over 3 years of constant improvement, we’ve incorporated many outstanding features such as automatic screening tests, easy progress tracking, convenient licensing for physiotherapy facilities and much, much more. Contact us to schedule a free demo!

Key Takeaways

Genuine empathy, a personalized approach to goal-setting, and carefully chosen software are crucial to sparking and maintaining your patient’s motivation – even in difficult times such as the COVID-19 pandemic.