Trust yourself: You may have a gut feeling about what is wrong with you. Often you just know. One of the first questions I ask a patient is “What do you think is wrong?” Not surprising to me, they are most often correct. Patients instinctively know what is injured. Doctors who ignore that information are missing out. And worse, when a diagnosis is made that the patient doesn’t believe in, the possibilities for a cure are diminished.
Trust your doctor: Trust between a doctor and a patient often determines how successful a treatment plan is. Getting to that trust level is sometimes easy and sometimes hard, but it is always required for any long-term relationship. The doctor-patient relationship is a contract: “I will give you my best surgery [or nonoperative care], if you give me your best effort in recovery and fitness.”
Know your own and your doctor’s biases: When deciding on a treatment plan for knee arthritis, I often will tell a patient that I am biased toward tissue-replacement solutions rather than artificial joint replacement. I let them know that I have developed some of the techniques and am good at them. They work well for my patients and we have the long-term outcome studies to support the bias.
However, I also explain that it might not work for them or necessarily be the best choice for them. You need to know the bias of your doctor when deciding between specific treatment choices. Ask upfront and develop the trust. When you both buy into a course of action, it has a higher chance of succeeding. If for some reason it doesn’t work, you can work together to get to the best outcome. Notice that the trust goes both ways. If I trust that my patient understands and buys into the pros and the cons of a particular pathway, then we will get to a good place together, though not always in a straight line.
Trust your physical therapy and fitness team: Knowing that your therapist is aware of the diagnosis, that the communication between the doctor and the therapist has been clear and that the therapist’s knowledge and skills will add even more to the presumed diagnosis, is the basis for a great outcome. With a trusted relationship with your team, together you will get to recovery from injury and then on to a new fitness level. This trust is based on your therapist’s knowledge and manual skills, on their having the time to spend with you with hands-on care, as well as their great communication skills. Again, the trust goes two ways. The team needs to trust that you will follow through with regular appointments and with home exercises and not quit before you are both healed and improved.
Trust your surgical team: If you need surgery, your mental preparation before during and after the procedure is important. Our patients who come to surgery with the calmness and confidence that exudes from their first smile upon arriving at the center have an easy time. Happy thoughts actually produce happy patients. Trusting that the team is cohesive, has your surgical plan in mind, is focused on your care and that you are confident in their hands sends the healing endorphins through your body and into the space around you. There is interesting data that comments and sounds made in the operating room while the patient is asleep are actually recorded by the patient’s brain. Confidence expressed by the surgical team matters throughout your care.
Our goal is stated as this: We aim to help you become fitter, faster and stronger than you were before you were injured. If you trust yourself to start down that pathway, beautiful things will happen to you.
Dr. Kevin R. Stone is an orthopedic surgeon at The Stone Clinic and chairman of the Stone Research Foundation in San Francisco. He pioneers advanced orthopedic surgical and rehabilitation techniques to repair, regenerate and replace damaged cartilage and ligaments. For more info, visit www.stoneclinic.com.