Practitioner-Patient Interaction is More Important Than you Think
For those of us who like going to the physiotherapist, I am sure that like me, you have had to sit in a waiting room for a while only to then be put into a treatment room and left there with your electrode pads carrying the current from a tens unit into your body. Where you able to actually talk to your therapist? Did he take the time to ask you not only how have you been feeling but perhaps how your day was? Pay attention next time you visit the physical therapy clinic and you will see how important it is for your doctor to be more interactive with you as a patient. You would be surprised how much sooner healing will come when you do that.
Dr. Jorge Fuentes, a physical therapist who graduated from the University of Alberta, interaction with a patient is as important and necessary as the treatment. It is not only about going in there and plugging your patient to an electrode technology machine, it´s also about the eye contact and the body language. Most of all however would be the listening skills that therapists must have with their patients.
“The way we are applying treatment today is not the best approach,” Fuentes says. “That might be the reason physical therapy interventions have such a modest effect for patients with chronic conditions. The therapeutic context, in which the interventions are delivered, matters. We have to take these non-specific factors into consideration.”
The pain relief that comes from electrotherapy can be enhanced when there is more doctor-patient interaction. This exact topic was actually Dr. Fuentes Thesis topic when he was graduating. He was the first to put this in practice with the target of evaluating the data in a randomized yet controlled research.
In the study carried out by Dr. Fuentes, he recruited 117 patients that presented chronic lower back pain. He divided them into four groups with the following guidelines for each:
Group 1: This group received electrotherapy through tens units and electrode pads. Little interaction with the therapist limited to 5 minutes. Eye contact was avoided and there was no open engagement with the patient.
Group 2: Received the same amount and type of electrotherapy than group 1 however they spent the complete 30 minutes of treatment with the patient providing a good verbal communication and positive body language.
Group 3: This group got limited interaction while they had the tens units applied but the patient however was not aware that the machine was not connected to a power supply. This he called “sham treatment”.
Group 4: Got the same sham treatment but much more and enhanced doctor-patient interaction.
The research showed how the patients that got great interaction with the doctor and realistic electrotherapy got a 3 point reduction of pain levels on a scale of 10. They also increased their pain toleration by two kilograms. Both records were considered truly significant clinically speaking.
Here comes the most surprising result. Those patients who got the sham treatment however got much more interaction with the therapist, were the next ones to show great improvement in pain toleration and intensity reduction. They showed even more improvement than the group that had the actual electrotherapy up and running but with limited interaction.
There are many non-specific factors that help optimize the best therapy for patients and Fuentes was able to prove this through his thesis. At the International Society for the Study of the Lumbar Spine Conference he got great feedback for his research.
So now you know! Next time you visit your physical therapist, remember that it is not only about some electrodes and some current. Your well being goes beyond that!