Lifestyle Behaviors on Rehab and Performance

When I was fresh out of physical therapy school, I honestly thought I could “fix” everyone’s musculoskeletal problems. It didn’t take me long to realize there are just some injuries that cannot be fixed with physical therapy. For example, physical therapy alone will not return an ACL-deficient infantryman back to heavy rucking on uneven terrain, kicking down doors, and clearing rooms in a combat situation. Additionally, through experience, I quickly learned about the impact psychosocial factors have on an individual’s rehab prognosis and athletic performance. In the Army these include, but certainly not limited to, combat related PTSD, general anxiety, and secondary gain (duty restrictions, disability income, etc.). These are lessons I learned fairly early in my career, and I was able to adjust my practice accordingly based on the patient’s history.

Unfortunately, what took me over five years to truly realize and appreciate was the influence a patient’s lifestyle choices has on their rehab potential and/or physical performance. It’s shocking to think it took me this long, but the choices a patient or client makes outside my walls can either hinder or completely prevent the beneficial effects of physical therapy and programming. Basically, I can give someone the best services available, but it won’t matter if they make overall poor lifestyle choices. Despite the huge impact these behaviors on physical rehabilitation and athletic potential, we oftentimes overlook them or completely avoid the conversation altogether. The goal of this post is to simply give the “For Dummies” overview of the impact of some key lifestyle choices. This is not meant to insult anyone’s intelligence as it seems commonsense. However, as I hinted at earlier, the physical therapy and coaching professions in general can do a better job at addressing these issues.