It is a great feeling for our clients and ourselves as Athletic Therapists when we are able to discharge a client. We can remember you hobbling in on day one, potentially from a fresh acute ankle sprain, perhaps from 5 years of nagging back pain that started causing nerve symptoms that you could no longer ignore, or really anything in between. We worked with you through the ups and downs of your rehabilitation, because we all know that healing is much more of a roller coaster than a straight path. We have spent many hours with you to get you back to a point where you feel as good as you did before your injury, if not better, and you are back to your usual activities, or even more than you were able to do in the first place! We discharge you and send you on your way… BUT NOW WHAT?
A common misconception is that once you are fully recovered you go back to your old life, your old habits and somehow forget everything we have taught you. We get it, you have no pain, why would you have to keep focusing on your rehab. When this approach is taken, it is likely that we might see you back within the next year because you did exactly what you had been doing before seeing us and your injury, pain, or compensations have crept their way back in. As much as we like seeing your lovely faces in our clinic, we don’t want to see you hobbling back in with the same complaints as you had on day one.
Throughout your healing process, there are some exercises and tips we give you that are specific to that point in time during your recovery process. These types of things might be a suggestion to rest, ice, compress and elevate. This makes sense when your injury is in its acute stages and there is active inflammation but as you progress, we will move on to the next step of rehabilitation. Once past this stage, we might give you some simple isometric exercises to begin re-developing strength that may have been lost. This is also something that once you have mastered we can leave it in the past and move on to more complex, more challenging, and more functional exercises.
When we discharge you, we do not expect you to go home and continue icing an injury that has long been healed and dealt with but we also don’t want you going home and forgetting everything you have been taught. If you have ever seen an Athletic Therapist you probably know that we LOVE TO TEACH and educate our clients. We want you to know exactly what your injury is and what possible reasons it could have come on in the first place. We want you to understand why we are using certain techniques and how they are helping you, and we want you to know why we are giving you these exercises that are tailored to your injury and how they are helping in your recovery. By having this knowledge we hope that you can walk away with a few exercises, stretches, tips, and tricks that you can take home with you once we have discharged you and keep up with your rehab because your rehab should continue even once you are feeling better.
Most often the exercises we give you during your recovery are some extent of reps and sets to be done DAILY. Once you are discharged you should not throw these out the window but instead talk with your AT and come up with a list of exercises that you will do in your MAINTENANCE phase. Once you are pain-free and back to your activities you have reached the maintenance phase of healing where you are feeling good and we want to keep it this way. To accomplish this, you need to continue to take care of your body. This can be done by coming up with that group of exercises and stretches that are going to continue to help you stay pain-free. These exercises, that will be specific to you depending on your injury/pain should be done 3-4 times a week compared to 6-7 during the healing phase of your injury.
Bottom line is that when we reach that final stage of discharging you, we want it to be for good and not for a month or two so when you leave the clinic after being discharged, make sure you understand which exercises and stretches will continue helping you. Keep all of the tools we have given you in your back pocket. Keep that core engaged, do your posture exercises, and integrate everything you have been taught into your daily life so you can continue to maintain that pain-free lifestyle that we have achieved!
Written by Brodie Lefaivre
Bachelor of Kinesiology
Certified Athletic Therapist