“How long until I’m better?” The most common question we get asked as Physiotherapists by a country mile. A fair question as well! But is it always black and white though? Absolutely not!

There are a number of factors that will contribute to the answer of this question. How long have you had the pain? Is this the first incident of pain in that area? What sort of pain is it? How severe is the pain? There many different aspects to each injury which makes answering the above question very difficult to answer.

I have found through experience as a Gold Coast Physio, answering this question without 100% confidence can cause disappointment and confusion on both the therapist and clients ends. This is not ideal and not what we strive for here at our Surfers Paradise practice. This is why we have created 2 different treatment pathways here at Central Physio & Health to make bridging this gap of expectations between therapist and client a whole lot more transparent.

For certain injuries such as muscle strains/tears, ligament ruptures etc. it is feasible to give a timeline of recovery as the tissue heals and regenerates. But for those more persistent, longer standing injuries that have been an issue for someone over a long period of time, this is not possible in most cases. The best way to set expectations is to break it down into parts.

Someone comes into us with long standing back pain. You simply cannot guarantee that they will be pain free and full function in 4-6 weeks. You will just open a can of worms later down the road.

The best thing to do is break up their pain into what they can and can’t do. Focus on what you know they can’t do or have trouble doing and work on correcting these first, I.e. bending forwards, squatting, sitting for long periods. Then, find out what is contributing to them not being able to do those things, i.e. hamstring tightness, poor core activation, stiff joints etc. and work on those. Once we see these 3-4 key movements or functions improving then we can track progress towards pain free and full function.

If both the therapist and client are on the same page as to what the goals of treatment are, and they are being reached within an expected timeframe for the client, then expectations are being met. This has a cumulative effect on the overall well being of the client going forward.

If someone is expecting to be better in 2-4 weeks when it will take 12-16 weeks then treatment has already failed. If the client is aware and on board with it possibly taking 12-16 weeks, then both parties can work together and form a good relationship to reach the goals in that time. I have found this very important to understand and will be one of the first things that is talked about in the initial session once an extensive background has been taken.

John Macansh


Central Physio & Health