Celebrate the Small Wins: From Nathan

by | May 6, 2023

Recovery from an injury or rehabilitation from a longstanding problem takes time.  When I ask my patients at their first visit what they would like to achieve from physiotherapy, they usually say two things: 1. Reduce the pain, and 2. Get back to an activity that is important to them.  This varies from everyday activities like self care, household tasks or meal preparation, to walking, running or travel.  It is helpful to have this activity goal clear in your mind, as it “pulls” you to do the regular, challenging and sometimes boring exercises that are required to get you there.

If you’re starting from a low point, however, and your goal is to return to a reasonable level of activity (let’s use hill walking as an example) then it can sometimes feel like your goal is too far away – both in effort and time.  This is where mapping out smaller goals and celebrating the small wins is important.

Here’s how it works:

I’m not a psychologist (although I am fortunate enough to have a sister who is) but I do know that our brains reward us with a natural dopamine hit when we complete a challenging or difficult task.  This contributes to the sense of achievement you get when you solve a problem, return from a long hike, finish the gardening or complete a project at home

But if your goal of retuning to hill walking is, say, 2-3 months away, and you have a lot of rehabilitation to do in the meantime, the gap between your efforts and achieving your outcome makes it difficult to maintain motivation.  An example of this would be sticking to a home exercise program for a month before being allowed to move your shoulder freely, or keeping fit with an alternative activity to the one you really want to do.

Celebrating the small wins along the way gives you a mini dopamine hit that keeps you moving in the right direction.  A good physio should outline what your goal for the week, fortnight or month is and guide and support you to achieve that.  This could be getting 90 degrees bend after a total knee replacement, weaning off your crutches after ankle surgery, being able to reach your bra strap after frozen shoulder or walking around the block without hip pain.  Whatever these small wins are, make sure to celebrate them – they remind you that you are one step closer to your bigger goal and they give you important energy and commitment for the next phase or stage of your recovery.

 If this article inspires you to take the first step to getting back to normal, please call our helpful front desk team on 6056 6616.  They will help you find a day and time that suits you to come in and see one of our experienced physio’s, understand what is going on for you, and help you take the first steps in your recovery.

To Your Better Health,

Nathan and the team at Personal Best Physiotherapy


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