For anyone who has been prescribed physical therapy as a means to strengthen and improve function, a means of measurement is readily available to you.
There are tools that your physical therapist will offer you and exercises to do at home and exercises and treatments you will do while at the physical therapy clinic.
I found that keeping a log of what I did and how often I did it helped a lot, especially when I was challenged personally by the time it took for me to recover function.
Sometimes progress is hard to see. It’s also tough, in this world if immediate (if poorly considered) fixes, to see why it’s important to keep going and keep working.
We have long been conditioned that in order for a medical intervention to be effective, it must also be immediate, and physical therapy will not follow that idea. Physical therapy is gradual (for the most part) and as a result, your improvements will be stronger and last longer. Research supports this, as does the experience of many people who know physical therapy works.
When you begin physical therapy, keep a log (I use a small notebook, others have used a notebook app on their phones or tablets). Write down the date, the number of exercises you’ve done, and how you feel when you’re finished that day. This helps with consistency (so important when you’re rehabilitating) and over time, you can see your own progress. By logging what you’ve done, you can follow your physical progress, make sure you’re consistent, and have a record of it. This is incredibly useful for people like me who can forget in 2 hours what I had for breakfast.
The entry for how you feel is important for 2 reasons: First, it will help your physical therapist understand how your progress is affecting you (yes, bring your journal with you to your physical therapy appointments). He or she can help evaluate if there are other things that need to be addressed, if the current regimen is working, or if it needs to be stepped up or scaled back.
The second thing it will accomplish is provide you with real time feedback for how physical therapy is helping with your issue. Small things, like, “ I reached for the top shelf in the kitchen and my shoulder didn’t hurt this time!” or “ I was able to walk down the stairs without stopping because the pain was so intense” will encourage and remind you that all progress counts, even if it doesn’t happen all at once.