A nearly universal comment by our patients revolves around the high levels of energy we try to exude in our clinic. And this is, of course, on purpose! We want anyone who walks in to feel immediately welcome, comfortable, and to enjoy their time with us despite the often painful or seemingly hopeless conditions that bring many patients to our door.
The reason is often suspected to be quite capitalist in nature: But of course we would do this, that is good customer service! And sure, we do of course wish to excel in customer service, but in reality there is actually a therapeutic goal to our clinical model as well, and I think it is super important to discuss because it is something I feel our patients should be looking for in ALL of their healthcare provider interactions!
The human body has some very interesting systems in play for its survival. You may have heard of the “fight or flight” reflex. Well, as part of that innate area of our biology our body has adapted a way to prioritize where it puts energy. If our body assumes that there is a present stressor or threat to its system (in more ancient times, say being chased by a tiger!) it knows that it needs to divert all its needs to immediate survival. Things like sleep and effective rest, the immune system, tissue healing, even appropriate digestion go by the wayside in favor of diverting all energy to immediate survival. Now, a tiger is far more rare in our modern world, and stressors to the body more frequently come in the shape of illness, injury, workplace or social stress, even traffic, but our body reacts in the same way: divert resources to support an ability to fight or get away.
Have you ever noticed that those in higher stress have a harder time getting rested sleep? Have a harder time losing weight? Seem to heal slower? Well, you would be exactly right in those observations. The body is set up to divert all energy away from these systems that may not support immediate survival in any stressed situation until it is in a situation that is calm, safe, friendly, and in control.
You may also notice that people who have better stress management support in their lives experience the opposite of these issues. They seem to heal at almost superhuman rates, they often seem better rested, and sometimes have an easier time losing weight. A good perception of safety and control in our lives is actually a major key in efficient healing! So if your healthcare environment immediately exudes a feeling of “I am welcome and safe here,” take a wild guess as to what this means for your body’s own ability to get better!
This is actually the dirty little secret to why myself and many of my colleagues introduce ourselves by first name and not as “Dr Martinez” or with some silly string of letters. I am “Alec, the physical therapist who will be working WITH you today!” I do get asked why I do this this often, actually, and the answer is it has everything to do with me wanting my patients to feel absolutely in control of their environment and treatment. If I enter your exam as an authoritative figure, you are no longer in control of your condition. If I enter as a caring peer who has a toolbox that can help you heal yourself, you are actually on better footing to get better even faster! If you feel at home and safe here in our clinic, your body will be able to regulate its stress systems better and divert more energy into healing, moving, and feeling exactly like you want it to!
So that’s the sinister secret about our clinic: customer service is great, but we have far more simple motives in mind for our philosophy. If you feel safe, you feel better faster!