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Positive programming

by David Pope

“Pan roasted prawns with cauliflower puree, roast tomato salsa & crisp Serrano ham.” This was one of the menu items at one of our recent course venues in Circular Quay. (Discover the Sports Thorax in July) What if they worded it a bit differently…

“Prawns, not totally burnt, with cauliflower blended to a pulp, tomato salsa and ham (we guarantee the ham is not soft)”

Which one makes your mouth water, connects more deeply with you? The use of positive language can totally change the meaning and context of an expression, and improve the effectiveness of our message. You can harness the connection you create with positive language, and in the patient context, I am going to call it positive programming, to multiply the effectiveness of your patient interventions. David Butler, in his recent podcast talked about “dethreatening” patient conditions, and it ties in nicely with this concept. Using positive programming in our explanation can dethreaten our patients pain even further. Something that has helped me with this is keeping in mind what I want as the outcome, and use phrases that lead to this outcome.

Here’s an example of the use of negative and positive programming in a patient explanation. Instead of “You need to stop using this muscle (your TFL) too much, as it is causing your lateral knee pain“ we can use positive programming, and talk about what we want to happen. “We are going to teach your body a new way to use the muscles around your hip – learn to keep this muscle soft and relaxed, get better control of the little muscles that keep you hip centred in the socket. This will help your knee control when you are running, so your knee can feel better, and you can run faster/longer etc (whatever is important to the patient)”. We have used positive terms throughout our statement, and kept focused on what we want to happen.

“You are terrible at using your TA”. This is further reinforcing to the patient their disconnect from their core. How could we use positive programming here? How about “Your body can quickly learn to automatically use your TA when you tackle in rugby, and we are going to use some specific cues and exercises that will help you….”

The clinical examples are endless, and it is all about focussing on what we want to happen, then using positive programming to achieve this.

What positive programming do you like to use in the clinic, and what results have you had with it? Let us know in the comments below…

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