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How to manage pain and successfully recover - tips from a seasoned physical therapist

As part of an ongoing series, we are interviewing physical therapists to gain unique insights into how to manage pain and get back to living life fully.

Meet Virginia Olsen, one of Kenko’s physical therapy advisers. Virginia is currently at the Mayo Clinic and has over 36 years of experience.

She has worked in all major areas of physical therapy - outpatient orthopedic, sports medicine, chronic pain, women's health, and wellness.

Read our interview below to learn

  • The most common causes of chronic pain

  • How to start and succeed in your recovery process

  • How to find the right physical therapist for you

... and much more!

1. Why did you choose to be a Physical therapist?

I was drawn to physical therapy in college as I knew that healthcare was an exciting and growing field, and physical therapy was at the forefront of healthcare at that time. It has proven to be an excellent choice for me as I've been given many different opportunities in my career to pivot and practice in varying specialties of physical therapy. There has always been a job market for physical therapists, so moving to different parts of the country allows you opportunities to practice in various roles.

2. What are the most common causes of chronic pain?

I think the most common cause of chronic pain is inadequate healing following trauma or an illness. These can come in different forms but often manifest themselves in chronic pain. According to the CDC, 20% of US adults suffer from chronic pain, which is about 50 million people. This is astounding and demonstrates the prevalence of chronic pain and its weight on our healthcare system.

3. What is the best method for a patient to begin their recovery process?

Remember the RICE principles: rest, ice, compression, elevation. Granted this is often used with orthopedic injuries. But having trusted healthcare guidance will help patients navigate the recovery process and successfully return to their lives.

4. What should a patient look for when trying to find the right Physical Therapist for them?

The right physical therapist is vital in your recovery process.

Some tips to find the right one for you:

  • Research your physical therapist or clinic to ensure they have the certifications and specialties that you are looking for to guide your recovery.

  • Choose someone you can easily communicate with and who provides detailed home programs. Remember the relationship between you and your physical therapist is important for your recovery, and it's important that you are an active participant in the relationship.

  • Make sure you understand the financials involved with your physical therapist and their clinic whether it is via insurance or self-pay.

5. What are some things you noticed with your patients that had a successful recovery journey?

Patients that have had a successful journey are often active participants in their recovery. They follow the plan established during the initial evaluation. They are good communicators and are willing to put in the work often required for a successful recovery.

6. What is your favorite part of your job?

The favorite part of my job is connecting with patients, particularly when they have their "aha" moment and they buy into their rehabilitation plan and success. These are the patients that are successful in their recovery and it's their success that motivates health care practitioners, like me, to keep practicing.

Thank you, Virginia!

Takeaway #1:

Finding a trusted physical therapist that patients connect with on a deeper level will help them stay on track during their recovery journey.

Takeaway #2:

Home exercise programs are critical to the success of a patient fully recovering from their injury. Trusting the plan, communicating with their physical therapist, and putting in the work will ensure a successful recovery.

Physical therapy is a difficult process, are there any tools available to increase the chances of a successful recovery?

Kenko is a comprehensive patient-focused prescription platform that fosters the patient- physical therapist relationship to increase the chances of a successful recovery. Access our video library for educational resources, connect with trusted physical therapists in our network, utilize intuitive home exercise tools, and start getting back to the best version of yourself!

Live your life without chronic pain by signing up for our free platform launching soon!

Who should we speak to next? Feel free to comment with feedback or suggestions!

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