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Raising the Bar in Rehab

Distracting Your Patients into Exercise

Published November 4, 2010 5:27 PM by

There are a lot of times during my day when patients are not exactly thrilled with the options I give them for their therapy sessions. Not to fault the patients; we all get into periods where our motivation dips and nothing sounds appealing. "Well, Mr. Smith, we can either work on some strengthening exercises for your quads or some standing balance exercise." Mr. Smith sighs and then defers the decision to me. "Whatever you want to do it fine" - even though I can tell his spark is not lit.

This is one of the situations I struggled with when I first finished school and started working full-time. I was so excited about graduating and entering the "real world" that I thought everyone else should be equally as excited. Sure, my patients were participating, and showing up for their appointments instead of canceling - but there wasn't a lot of enthusiasm bursting from the seams of each activity. How was I supposed to make the most of every session?

Ah, the power of distraction. Now, this strategy does not always work. Actually, there have been times when my attempts at distracting a patient will backfire. However, when the right patients come along at the right time, they may love talking about their hobbies or grandchildren so much that they don't even realize the exercises we are doing. They laugh and joke while I stretch out their heel cords and I am able to achieve more range of dorsiflexion than I had in prior sessions. It is really a wonderful feeling to find the right conversation to complement your session and help your patients enjoy their therapy time.

Believe it or not, the same concept applies to myself. I don't enjoy upper-extremity strengthening, like, at all - but if I have Survivor on the television or listen to some good music, I can make my way through a few push-ups and dumbbell lifts. There has been more than one occasion when I hang up the telephone and realize I've finished all the dishes in the meantime. In school, I often found ways to occupy myself while I was waiting for my test grades to be uploaded onto the school Website.

What do you think? Have you found successful ways of keeping our patients' attention away from the task at hand? Do you distract yourself?


In response to your topic I have read alot of research on the use of virtual reality as a means of keeping patients motivated and engaged in the therapy.  Have you ever used or seen virtual reality treatment used in physical therapy?

The virtual reality take be in form of an avatar that mimics the patient's movement or a 3D immersion the patient views in first person.

If you haven't used this technology do you think it would help in your effort in motivating your patients?

richard, , Student Uconn November 5, 2010 8:22 PM
Waterbury CT

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