Aging and Injury-Recovery: Physical Therapist Jim Zwiefelhofer Explains What to Expect, Part I
This Month is National Pain Awareness Month. Lots of events are planned this month (see Reference #2) that you can read and participate in.
In light of this, I’d like to bring attention to a certain group where pain can be more than just something you “deal” with as the body heals from it. Though no one “likes” pain, when the body ages, pain and injury require a longer time to recover from (for more information on how aging affects the body, see Reference #2). Recovery, then, for the aging can be a very serious concern. If Physical Therapy (PT) is required, older patients may be wary, “Will they hurt me? Will it help me recover or will they push me so I get another injury?”
Well, Physical Therapist Jim Zwiefelhofer empathizes with these concerns. In the following interview, Zwiefelhofer discusses what to expect in Physical Therapy, what a Physical Therapist does, and why trust and communication are key in the recovery process.
*this is part one of a two-part interview
OO: I’d like to thank you, Jim, for taking the time to talk with me about what you do. Can you first tell us your current and previous work?
JZ: My name is Jim Zwiefelhofer. I currently work at the Center for Independence in Lake Zurich, Illinois with children who have cerebral palsy. Previously I worked in an adult orthopedic clinic for 11 years called Alpine Physical Therapy [in Lake Zurich, Illinois]. Our primary demographic were people aged 45 to 75 years.
OO: What exactly does a Physical Therapist do?
JZ: We take physical ailments that people have and use a hands-on treatment with different modalities [a symptom or pattern that aids in diagnosis] to help them recover from injury.
OO: Do you focus on building relationships with your patients?
JW: Yes, we do: especially with our elderly patients. We, in fact, had a lot of return patients who came back all the time with different injuries because of this. The returning elderly patients were definitely the most appreciative. They would give little gifts like baked goods [etc.]. I feel it was because we took the time to get to know them. We also tried to get to the bottom of their problem, rather than just put a “band-aid” on their ailments. We took them seriously.
OO: I’ve read about the difference between “good pain” and “bad pain.” Can you define that difference? It seems important for one to understand.
JZ: For good pain, I usually use the term “tolerable discomfort.” When you have an injury, you know there’s going to be pain there. When you work out at the gym [for example] or go through rehab, there will be some pain as well, but [it’s] more likely tolerable discomfort that you are feeling. We try to make clear to patients at the beginning of treatment the two kinds of pain. For most people, it takes time to grasp the difference between bad pain and tolerable discomfort. Soreness from PT is tolerable pain. Short stabbing pains, on the other hand, you shouldn’t be feeling. If a patient had to lift their arm in PT [from an arm injury], and they would say “it hurts,” we’d ask them, “well, is the pain tolerable?”
OO: So communicating what you’re feeling to your physical therapist seems very important. Also, it sounds pain is pretty subjective, even with a metric like the Pain Index Scale [a measurement of pain using a scale of 0-10. See Reference #3 for more information] to help determine the level of pain. I know, for example, you were a football player. I’m pretty sure my “2” on the index scale is different than your “2!” What do you think about this? Do you think pain is psychological, physical, or both?
JZ: It’s both. We want as PTs to give the patient as little pain as possible. But it is an injury, and there will be some discomfort at times. That’s part of them moving forward towards recovery. But we don’t want them to have bad pain.
We will continue our discussion of “bad pain,” and other issues, with Zwiefelhofer next week. Stay tuned!
- ‘Home Page’. August 25, 2016. Accessed September 2, 2016. https://theacpa.org/.
- ‘Modalities Definition’. Accessed September 8, 2016. https://www.google.com/search?q=modalities+definition&rlz=1CAACAG_enUS662US663&oq=modalities+defi&aqs=chrome.0.0j69i57j0l4.3738j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8.
- Richards, Karen Lee. ‘Using the Pain Scale Effectively’. 2016. Accessed September 8, 2016. http://www.healthcentral.com/chronic-pain/coping-403768-5.html.