When someone tells you to do something, do you do it? If you tend to do your own thing regardless what others say, then you might be considered independent, controlling or non-compliant. Sometimes that style of living can reveal opportunities and other avenues of success. But when it comes to your health and treatment of medical conditions, non-compliance can lead to disasters too. Adherence to medical treatment might not be an issue of control as much as it is an issue of beliefs, belief in yourself and belief in the treatment. If you do not believe that you can participate in a treatment, then you will not. If you do not believe that the treatment will work, then you will not participate in it. Whatever your reason for not following directions, you might want to read further about the reasons why treatment compliance can lead to treatment success of painful conditions.
Treating pain with medications is more likely to be successful if you follow the directions. Researchers in Spain have actually pinpointed the relationship between medication adherence and pain relief.1 Those who were more compliant with the treatment regimens were less likely to experience severe pain.
Unfortunately, many people try to take matters into their own hands, under their own control. Some people mix medications from other sources. Some people take more than prescribed. And some people stop taking a drug altogether. That type of medication tinkering can lead to problems of not just worsening pain, but can also create a potentially dangerous situation. Doctors try to monitor for medication compliance with urine drug tests and prescription drug monitoring. In the advent of greater information access, more and more people are becoming more informed and more independent. But sometimes that independent thought process comes at a price if you stray off a treatment pathway.
Adherence to treatment programs is not just important for medication treatment. Physical therapists are constantly seeing the consequences of people not following directions or not doing as they are instructed. Issues of fear, avoidance, time and convenience become primary reasons why people do not comply with rehabilitation programs. For others, they may not believe that physical therapy will work at all. All of these beliefs and issues can erode a person’s desire to participate despite the potential benefits. One study published in the European Spine Journal mentioned that “the benefits of rehabilitation depended to a large extent on the patient's exercise behavior outside of the formal physiotherapy sessions.”2
Physical therapy only works if you are doing your homework, including your home exercise program, because building strength and endurance requires more time and effort than what is done in the formal sessions with the physical therapist. A majority of physical therapy programs fail because of non-compliance. In turn, behind every story of physical therapy success, there is a compliant patient.