Do Nothing

Neil - Doctor of PhysiotherapyBlog, Physiotherapy0 Comments

When a client/patient comes to us for help, we inevitably have an in-built drive to do ‘something’. The question then is, is that ‘something’ actually doing ‘anything’?

It’s not uncommon for a therapist to throw the kitchen sink of treatment interventions at someone’s symptom(s), from ice to compression boots to muscle stim to lasers to Graston to dry needling to ultrasound, functional exercise and everything else in their toolbox. Undoubtedly some of these things work and some don’t. The problem is, often we don’t know exactly what does and doesn’t work.

The premise is that if we throw enough at it, something will help. Something has to be better than nothing right?

Sometimes it feels like there’s nothing worse than sitting there as a Physiotherapist saying to your client/patient, “I can’t do anything for you right now, the best thing is just give it some time.” That sucks. It can be a horrible feeling; relinquishing all sense of control, admitting defeat, and letting the injury be the master.

It’s this fear of losing control, being able to do ‘nothing’, that paralyses us. It creates the fear response, the unending worry that we should be doing something, almost anything, to work towards getting the person better. Doing nothing feels like the exact opposite of what we should be doing. Yet, doing something might actually do nothing. It gives us (and the client/patient) the *illusion* that we are actually doing something.

This need to ‘do something’ guides many of our behaviours, creating the illusion of control.

Much to my amusement, Erik Meira says this about the use of physical agents in episode #85 of the PT Inquest:

“If you don’t know what you’re doing as far as the specific effects, you’re basically just flinging shit against a wall. So you flung the shit against this wall versus that wall looking for responders; so at the end of the day, you’re still just flinging shit against the wall. And that’s not quality. Unless you’re doing a faecal study.”

Adapted from: http://www.scienceofrunning.com/2016/04/when-doing-nothing-is-better-than-doing.html and https://itunes.apple.com/au/podcast/pt-inquest/id511806675?mt=2&i=373146706

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