Accentuate The Positive


Just over a year ago, I fell from a height and managed to fracture the proximal head of my right humerus in two places. In other words, I badly broke my shoulder. After spending four weeks immobilised in a sling, and subsequently not being able to drive or work, not to mention having to sleep upright, it soon became apparent that I had now developed adhesive capsulitis (frozen shoulder).


Perhaps you can imagine how I was beginning to feel. A self-employed therapist, living many miles away from the nearest town and my clinic, I felt broken and disheartened. The negative attitude and words of the hospital consultant did little to encourage me. But then, a very good friend said something that made a huge difference to my mindset: “The body ALWAYS wants to heal”.



I have thought of that simple but powerful expression many times this past year, not only as a therapist, but also as a patient (client). In my clinic, I often observe the different outcomes between those clients with a positive mindset towards their recovery, and those who are, shall we say, less positive. Perhaps we may feel that is something that cannot be changed; that it is just a personality trait of the client. But then I consider how, as a therapist, I can have an affect here: I can make a positive intervention. After all, isn’t that what we do as therapists?

I am now more aware of the effects my words, language and tone of voice can have when assessing and treating those who walk through my door. I am also conscious of the unsaid words and messages that we may convey. For example, when assessing strength or ROM (range of movement), I was always taught to compare the affected (injured) joint with the unaffected. But does this sometimes convey a negative message to our client? In effect, are we saying: “Look at what you can’t do with your shoulder/knee/or ankle”. Why not, instead, compare the affected joint with previous measurements? This way, the client can focus on the positive progress made.

To highlight their progress, I often use visual markers that they can see and easily relate to, rather than measurements taken with a goniometer (measuring device). For example, if they have reduced ROM in the shoulder, I make a small pencil mark on the wall to show them how much forward flexion they have achieved each time they visit. I know, from personal experience, the positive effect this has; as you see those pencil marks slowly but surely progressing upwards!


Words and expressions I try to avoid:








Words and expressions I prefer to use:





Well done!


Now, I know the important balance of being realistic as well as positive. But I also understand the dangers of being overly cautious or negative. So, fair enough, our client may not be fully recovered by the weekend to play in that match or run that race. But, it is still so important to focus positively on their progress and achievable goals along the way to recovery. To give them genuine commendation for how far they have come, and above all, to impart realistic hope.


As Bing Crosby sang “You have to ac-cent-tchu-ate the positive, eliminate the negative”

Ed Clark BSc (Hons) is a Sports Rehabilitation Therapist practising in Penrith, Cumbria. He is a graduate member and regional representative of the Sports Therapist Association.

Photo credits:


Grow ~ Andrew Seaman

Massage ~ Toa Heftiba

Yoga on the beach ~ Marion Michele

Hand ~ Natalie Collins






Let’s Talk Relationships

How healthy is your client-therapist relationship?

What do you expect from your therapist? Or should I ask: “What should you expect?” By this, I don’t mean simply value for money or clean towels.


I remember writing an assignment in the third year of my degree on that subject which highlighted such attributes as confidentiality and professionalism, but, of course, I have since come to understand so much more in this regard.

There are clearly many qualities that help create a good client-therapist relationship. Here are just a few that I have come to appreciate in my years of practise:


  • Authenticity
  • Empathy
  • Honesty
  • Knowledge and Experience


Let’s look at those qualities in a little more detail.


Is your health and well-being genuinely important to your therapist or are you simply another booking or name in the appointment diary?

Does your therapist know you personally or do they treat you somewhat impersonally? For example, does your therapist remember your name, your sport, your occupation, your background and circumstances?

Does he listen to your concerns and do you feel heard? Is he focused on you throughout your appointment or easily distracted, perhaps even checking his mobile?



Does your therapist have a caring outlook towards your treatment? Can he put himself in your shoes or does he appear to have little understanding of the feelings, frustrations and discomfort that you may be experiencing? Does he speak positively about your goals and aspirations?

Remember, a simple academic understanding of your injury or condition is very different to an empathetic understanding.



We all know how important it is to have an honest builder work on our home, or an honest mechanic work on our car. So, how important is it when it comes to our body? Is there an audible ‘sharp intake of breath’ when we present with an injury and a suggestion of long-term bookings being advisable or necessary? Or does our therapist try to honestly gauge the number and length of sessions we need?


Experience and Knowledge

As a whole, the sports-therapy industry in the UK is, sadly, unregulated. So, how can we be certain that our therapist is adequately qualified and experienced to treat our specific condition? Why not ask? Sports therapy qualifications vary enormously when it comes to the level of knowledge and experience required.



Does your therapist belong to any regulatory body? Most of these require their members to participate in regular continued professional development, hold an appropriate first-aid certification, and to be fully qualified and insured for ALL the treatments they offer to clients.



So, how does your client-therapist relationship weigh up in these regards? What should you consider doing if you feel unhappy or dissatisfied with that relationship? Ultimately, that is your choice, but in an age when we are encouraged to consider switching banks or utility provider if we are not satisfied with the level of service, it may be at least worth evaluating our current provider of personal health care.


Ed Clark BSc (Hons) is a Sports Rehabilitation Therapist practising in Penrith, Cumbria.