Balancing expectation with reality occurs consistently throughout our lives. Every kid expects adulthood to be 100% fun all the time. In reality, adulthood is work—your job, paperwork, taxes, yardwork, relationships, cleaning, cooking, etc. As we go through life, I think most people learn the lesson of weighing your wishes and dreams with the actuality of situations. This same principle applies to physical therapy.

  1. What you want to make you better and the reality of what you ACTUALLY need. Sometimes patients come to us with an interesting expectation of what they think physical therapy will look like at SPARK. They sometimes envision 60 minutes of relaxation on a table, getting a massage, while surrounded by warm pillows, and listening to the dreamy tunes of Enya. Others think that they will be one of four patients “working” with a physical therapist that they will only see for about 10 minutes of their session. Reality is drastically different here. All sessions are 60 minutes, one-on-one with your physical therapist. At SPARK, you most likely will sweat at your first and all subsequent sessions. The “fluffy” stuff may have its place, but if you want to get better we have to address your “pain, posture, movement, muscle pathology”1 and how they contribute to your complaint. When we need to remind you about the reality of what you need, we like to ask, “Do you want to get better or stay the same?”
  2. Life should be pain-free and the reality that pain, hurt, and injury is intermittently part of life. We pride ourselves on our ability to assess and treat problems that have plagued patients for years or baffled clients’ previous healthcare providers. Our greatest accomplishment is to completely eliminate pain and dysfunction from our patients’ lives, but sometimes extreme pain is reduced to minor pain that has to be managed through various methods. The process of realizing this is one of the hardest for patients. It involves a lot of patient education regarding the physiology of pain and the tools to manage what remains. When this happens you may hear us say, “You’re not straight out of the package anymore.” Ideally we would always be perfect movers but injury, movement habits, and pain change how we move. Instead of griping about things, keep moving your best and pushing to be strong.
  3. Everything you need is completed during your weekly visit and the reality of daily responsibility. It would be nice if coming to SPARK once a week could solve it all and in some situations it covers a multitude of problems. For most patients they learn the reality that responsibility doesn’t stop when you enter our doors. Staying on top of exercises, stretches, self-mobilizations, and soft tissue work helps you maintain gains and continue to improve. You might hear us say, “Be the best mover you can be. When you don’t need us, we have done our job.”

When it comes to expectation vs. reality, be prepared to hear one of the many phrases we love to use here. Expectations are usually comfortable and responsibility-free. Reality is hard work, sweat, and soreness. But realizing your own role in your wellness will help you get better sooner, take responsibility for your own health, and manage the minor pains of life.

1Gro Killi Haugstad, “Posture, movement patterns, and body awareness in women with chronic pelvic pain,” Journal of Psychosomatic Research 61 (2006). (accessed May 20, 2016).

Dr. Kristen A. Lattimore, PT, DPT, CSCS, CMTPT

Licensed Doctor of Physical Therapy, Certified, Strength and Conditioning Specialist, Certified Myofascial Trigger Point Therapist

Dr. Lattimore has also had experience as an athlete and coach of the speed and jumping side of Track and Field. She is passionate about integrating her knowledge and experience with fast and powerful exercise into the practice of physical therapy. She also enjoys working with patients whose concerns and complaints have been overlooked and perpetually deferred to the next medial professional. 

Kristen continues to challenge herself with varied exercise including interval running, weight lifting, yoga, and Pilates. She is passionate about making her patients their best selves and adding power and intensity back into physical therapy. She can be reached at [email protected].

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