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The Importance of Buy In

January 30, 2019

I read a post on facebook recently. Someone was asking for recommendations for a health professional, because they’d been to several different physios who had all told them different things and they’d seen no improvement.

This is a tough one for that person and for the next health professional they see. It’s something I’ve come across quite often. Some people with long-term pain will see a number of different people about it, and frustratingly may be told a different story by each one. So I might be the eighth person giving them the eighth different explanation.

As physios, we have to be aware of this, and so we should be making sure we explain things clearly and it makes sense. We also should be talking things through with you and making sure you understand it, rather than falling into the all too easy trap of explaining it only the way we like to explain it.


My focus for this post is on what you as a patient can do to make this situation easier and improve the likelihood that you can start to get on top of the situation.

The main thing is to ‘buy in’. This is a concept very familiar to me in my sports background. I’ve told basketball teams I’ve coached that a team with a horrible strategy who have all ‘bought in’ will beat a team with a great strategy where none of them have ‘bought in’.

bought in

In the terms of a health setting, buy in is important for a couple of reasons. It makes you more likely to adhere to your rehab program if you understand what it is trying to achieve. It also creates a placebo effect. The placebo effect is a real effect and leads to real results. So if you believe that a treatment will have an effect, it’s far more likely to have that effect than if you’re sceptical.

Buying in to what your physio is telling you is easier said than done. Here are some tips to make it easier and to improve dialogue between you and your physio:

  • Keep an open mind. A lot of things we’ve learnt recently about pain can seem quite strange.
  • Set aside what other physios, chiros, osteopaths etc have told you about the same injury if you didn’t find that you were improving under them and you’re no longer seeing them.
  • Ask questions if you don’t understand something or if something doesn’t make sense.
  • If you’re not seeing improvement, ask why. Is the physio considering differential diagnoses and/or trying different treatment strategies?
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