I coined the phrase “Small Wins” early on in my career as a Doctor of Physical Therapy while working with patients, training fellow team members, and teaching doctoral students. “Small wins” are those milestones and achievements that we make during the rehabilitation process following an injury or surgery. Recognizing “small wins” can help yield long-lasting outcomes during the recovery process and help us ultimately achieve that “Big Win!”
Quite often, we overlook these “small wins” as doctors working with a patient during recovery from an injury here in our Raleigh location. The statement is even more true for patients who may be ready to put their therapy exercises to the side so they can get back to their sports practice or a normal exercise routine. Many times, the focus is on the main goal throughout the process, and that tunnel vision can cause frustration or concern regarding progress. That famous line, “you have to walk before you can run,” holds true many times during the process of recovery from an injury, yet even hearing that phrase most often makes us crave the run even more and wallow in the “walk” portion of the process.
As patients, we need to recognize the “small wins” as they happen each day. An example is a golfer who has had ACL repair surgery and is now undergoing post-surgery therapy to regain function. Swinging the club may not be an option at this time but achieving interim goals like walking throughout the day pain-free, squatting down to pick up the kids, or negotiating stairs at work without hesitation is a positive step in the right direction. These functional activities have to happen first before we start performing the more complex movement patterns.
Many times, when we only focus on the “Big Win,” frustration, anxiety, and depression can set in for a patient. It is important that education and encouragement continue throughout the recovery process. Often frustration by the patient and even the practitioner may lead to “rushing” the injury recovery process and either progressing too quickly, skipping milestones, or attempting to ignore weaknesses to achieve the “Big Win.” This usually results in re-injury, slower progression, and more frustration for all parties involved.
So, remember, the healing process is just that…a PROCESS. Visualize the recovery process as a road leading up to a mountain top. If the road to recovery was always the same straight road with no bumps or obstacles, the job of a Doctor of Physical Therapy would be a breeze! As linear as the healing process may seem on paper, this is normally not the case. We all have different roads to travel, and it is important to have the right guide to lead us down that road, over those obstacles, and recognize those “small wins” along that journey to finally ascend the mountain and achieve that “Big Win.”
For more information or to make an appointment, contact Moriarty Physical Therapy at 919-364-4000.
John Quinn, PT, DPT