The Real Reason Patients Come To See You (BIG HINT: It’s NEVER Pain)

Posted By: Andy Barker

Have you ever thought about the REAL REASON patients come to see you?

Why has that patient with back pain walked into your clinic?

What has actually made them book an appointment and seek your help?

You may think that PAIN is their main driver…


That is where you would be WRONG.

In this blog, I will explain why PAIN is NOT the reason patients seek medical help for their injuries.

You will discover the actual reason patients seek your help and this is the SAME, regardless of whether you work in the NHS or private practice and it even applies to professional sport.

I’ll be honest, it took me a LONG time to figure this out.

But once I did it made such a big difference to my ability to get patients, and the athletes I was working with, out of pain and back to full fitness.

I was able to do this much quicker and able to ensure these patients and athletes adhered to a full treatment plan and all just by understanding the real reason patients they were in my clinic in the first place.

Keep reading to find this out for yourself…

Missing The BIG POINT!!!

So much of our teaching at University focuses on the patient’s symptoms.

We learn about pain science, different pain pathways, ways to treat pain, we are taught certain questions to ask patients to determine different types of pain and use scales to rate a patient’s pain.

You take that learning into your practice once you qualify.

Just think about your patient assessments…

The questions you ask your patient are used to categorise symptoms, such as a pain score using something like a VAS (Visual Analogue Scale), or objective tests to determine a patients range of movement or strength.

You might assess gait, get your patient to squat and lunge and do your special testing.

Whilst you think these questions and tests give you find the patients problem, they don’t.

They may help you find a diagnosis, but even with all this information, unless you ask the right questions you will still be unsure exactly why they are even in your clinic in the first place.


And WHY is it so important?

Pain, or any other symptom for that fact, is NEVER the main reason a patient comes to see you.

Pain is important for sure, and is something we need to manage as part of our treatment plan, but if you just focus on pain and fail to attain the real reason a patient has come to see you, it will always be a struggle to get your patients back to full fitness.

They might stop adhering to your treatment plan, even worse, they may even stop attending your sessions and fail to complete your treatment plan in full.

As a New Grad I could never get my head around why players would be so distraught when they got injured.

I got they were injured and couldn’t play and obviously worked hard to get them back on the field asap.

But I struggled to understand why they found it so hard.

After all, they were getting daily medical care to get them back on the field quickly, they’d come in, do some rehab then head home in the early afternoon and all whilst still getting a handsome wage, for doing a sport they loved to do.

But I didn’t understand the other issues.

I didn’t understand their real drivers for being a professional athlete.

I didn’t understand what NOT playing meant to them and why being available and fit to play was so important to them.

Only when I worked this out was I really able to make quick changes to the players pain and make big inroads into their rehab.

The Patient Tipping Point

So why did I and why do 99% of other New Grad’s get it so WRONG?

Partly because we didn’t cover this content at University.

We spent so much time focusing on things like pain, our ability to diagnose and provide treatments and rehab we lost sight of the actual problem and the actual patient…

Why is it a patient with a 10-year history of lower back pain suddenly decides to act?

What has been the tipping point?

In this example they’ve had symptoms for such a long time, why are they seeking help now?

What is different now?

Something has changed for the patient and understanding this tipping point is vital, as this is the REAL REASON a patient has come to see you and once you understand this, it makes managing your patients much simpler.

The Real Reason Patients Come To See You…

The actual reason patients come to see you has nothing to do with symptoms, like pain, but EVERYTHING to do with WHAT those symptoms are actually STOPPING them from doing.

When you think about this it’s simple…

But 99% of New Grad therapists don’t know this and as such are making managing their patients much more difficult than it should be.

That patient may have lower back pain but…

It’s their inability to do the things they enjoy the most that makes them take action to come and see you.

Maybe that’s going to the gym, completing their weekly park-run or playing with their kids in the garden…

Each patient’s motives for getting rid of their symptoms will be different, but that’s the point.

You must link your treatment plan to these motives.

You need to show each and EVERY patient you see how you are going to take them from injury, through a full treatment plan, to get them back doing their chosen activity, that desired goal.

Unless you can do this, why would a patient go away and complete the rehab you have set?

If they don’t understand HOW your treatment plan will get them back to that park-run or back training in the gym pain-free, or whatever other activity it may be, patients will not adhere to your plan and as a result will NOT get better.

If you are unable to do this and a patient cant make sense of how your treatment plan will get them to their goal, most patients wont even complete their treatment plan.

That is why after a few sessions many patients stop turning up.

I’m sure you’ve had those DNA’s and patients that cancel their appointments and don’t re-book.

You might think they just got better and felt like they didn’t need to come anymore.

But this isn’t the reason.

The real reason is because they have lost faith in you, largely because they don’t understand how your treatment plan is going to help them back to the their desired activity, the activity they enjoy the most.

Once you understand the REAL REASON a patient is in your clinic you can ensure your treatment plan directly links to this and ensure you keep your patient on track.

This is the easiest and fastest way to get your patients out of pain and back to full fitness.

But unless you ask this question in the first place, how will you ever know why your patient is really in your clinic?

And unless you know this, your job to get your patient on board, to adhere to your treatment plan, to get them out of pain and back to full function, will be much more difficult than it needs to be.

Key Take-Aways

  • Pain is NEVER the reason a patient will come to see you.
  • Asking the patient what the pain is STOPPING them from doing is key to understanding the REAL REASON they want your help.
  • Linking your treatment plan to the patient’s individual goal shows your patient exactly how you are going to get them from injury and back to full fitness, leading to great patient adherence and faster, more successful patient results.
If you found reading this blog post useful you will also find BIG value in my book ‘How To Become A Competent, Confident & Competitive New Grad Physio.’

In the book I show you WHY you need the 3 C’s; COMPETENCY, CONFIDENCE & COMPETITIVENESS, and HOW to gain these skill-sets to enjoy a successful start to your career as a New Grad Physio, Sports Therapist or Sports Rehabilitator.

Find out more about the book here.