Why do I care about your goals?
There is a very high likelihood that if you’ve ever worked with a rehabilitation professional you’ve been asked about your goals. Often times I get the simple answer of, “no more pain”, or “to make this better [points at injured body part]”. This is all well and good, but a lot of us are also looking for you to define goals beyond the ‘fix me/this’ issue that you primarily came to us for. Maybe you can’t bend down without back pain to pick up your newborn child, or maybe you can’t play soccer because you ‘pulled’ your hamstring. Regardless, these goals are more personal and therefore become more meaningful to both myself and the person in front of me. They create platforms to which we can work off of AND towards.
Meaningful goals help direct your rehab professional AND keep you on track since we all know progress is rarely a straight path. Studies have found that goal-setting in rehabilitation increased adherence to the rehab program (1,2), as well as improved self-efficacy (2) – meaning you believe you are capable of performing activities relevant to you. There is limited and conflicting evidence regarding final outcomes with goal setting (1), but this is a much more challenging variable to measure compared to the above and will often require studies that follow participants for extended time periods.
Regardless of what a few studies report to us, I think it is safe to say that goal-setting is critical in the rehabilitation process. So how do you set an appropriate goal when you may not know your recovery path? That’s what we are here for. It is one of the many hats we wear throughout our workday. There are goals you can achieve in a day, week, month, and beyond. Some of the goals we set TOGETHER can be broken down into smaller goals.
For example, you want to return to lifting a bar over your head that weighs 100 lbs in 3 months, but right now you get sharp pain with lifting your arm above shoulder height. Well, our first goal might be pain free range of motion so that you can actually get your arm overhead (let’s say 2-3 weeks for this goal). Follow that up with our second goal of lifting a 25 lb dumbbell in 4-5 weeks. After achieving that, we may get you lifting a bar overhead and working your way towards 100 lb total (final goal achieved in 3 months!). It might seem like more work to break down one goal into three, but if the only goal you have is lifting 100 lb overhead in 3 months, you may feel like you haven’t accomplished anything with your rehab professional and lose interest in the recovery process.
Aside from creating goals that are meaningful to the person in front of us, what else do we as rehab professionals look for in a goal? This concept is not unique to the rehab world, and you may have heard of this before yourself, but we aim for creating SMARTER goals (3).
S: Specific – the goal is meaningful to you
M: Measurable – we can identify when it has been achieved/it has an outcome
A: Action-oriented – the goal itself creates direction for rehabilitation
R: Realistic – is this something you could achieve in the not-so-distant future
T: Time-based – we need to put a timeline on it so we can be held accountable together
E: Enjoyable – is this something you want to do?… it should be
R: Rewarding – why are you doing this?
As I said, the boundaries of creating SMARTER goals goes well beyond the rehabilitation world, so feel free to explore this concept in different areas of your life.
So there you have it: the what, why, and how of goal-setting in the rehab world. If you remember anything, goals need to be specific and meaningful to you. Full Stop. Utilize your rehab professional as a recovery team member. Allow them to help you synthesize short-term goals en route to long-term improvements, build confidence, fine-tune your progress, and monitor the positive changes you make. Build a trust network with professionals that are aligned with your goals, and see them come to fruition.
Thanks again for reading!
Jordan Fortuna, Manager of Clinical Services
Jordan is a graduate of the University of Toronto Physiotherapy program and has since been practicing in orthopaedic settings. He has developed an interest in sports physiotherapy through his many years as an athlete, participating in baseball, golf, snowboarding, and more recently rock-climbing, cycling, and strength training. He has worked with a variety of clientele including athletes from disciplines such as competitive dancing, running, rock-climbing, and mixed-martial arts, as well as non-athletes of a wide age range and ability. Regardless of activity level, he is dedicated to improving mobility, optimizing function, and strengthening to help achieve your goals through the use of an individualized exercise prescription and manual therapy. He also has additional training in acupuncture and sports taping.
- Levack, W M, Taylor, K, Siegert, R J, Dean, S G, McPherson, K M, and Weatherall, M. (2006). Is goal planning in rehabilitation effective? A systematic review. Clinical Rehabilitation, 20(9), 739–755.
- Evans, L, and Hardy, L. (2002). Injury rehabilitation: A goal-setting intervention study. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 73(3), 310-319.
- Wade, D T. (2009). Goal setting in rehabilitation: an overview of what, why, and how. Clinical Rehabilitation, 23, 291-295.