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Fear Mongering and False Information

Updated: Apr 11, 2023



As most of us do, we scroll through social media and consume content. Good, bad, funny; all the content. As a PT, I usually use that lens and as a healthcare practitioners, one of the things I noticed is there are some people out there, content creators/influencers ( Physical therapists included) that use buzzwords or use scare tactics to sell something or make themselves look like the ultimate authority on a subject. I was talking to a colleague, Dr. Melissa Cioffi, PT DPT (@dr.mel_pt, www.yournewquest.com ) and she responded to a post where someone in her specialty of pelvic floor PT posted misinformation

and used scare tactics to try to sell a program. Watching Dr. Mel’s response, you could see how infuriated she was by the original poster because this physical therapist stated blatant lies about the human body. When someone who works in your field and in your specialty, posts incredible lies, it confuses people and can potentially prevent them from seeking treatment.

Here’s where I veer from the path. Sometimes you need to scare your patient, BUT, if you have to scare your patient, it has to be with real consequences that will affect their health and rehab; but it’s never ok to lie. Regardless of what your patients’ status is it is not ok to lie. The exception is safety; safety is the ONLY exception where I would stretch the truth to a patient.

I did have to scare a patient once and it backfired. She was a young dancer coming back from an os trigonum excision (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6358335/) and not even one week post surgery looked me in the dead in the eye and told me she was going back to ballet class. My patient was in a walking boot meant to decreased the amount of motion in the surgical ankle. Naturally, I spoke with the Physician Assistant for the surgeon. The PA said: I’m ok with you scaring her because if she doesn’t take it easy, this will happen to her again. I told my patient: you are not ready for ballet, you will end up with the same issue and have to have surgery again. I never saw the patient again and she worked with a

therapist with no experience in treating dancers. Is this the same thing as what Dr. Mel spoke about?


Not really but it’s in the same vein.


I see posted from people in the wellness spectrum (Physicians, PTs, personal trainers, dance teachers etal) that make suggestions or ‘hacks’ with promises to ‘fix a problem’. Physicians and Physical Therapists technically have an upper hand because of our education but it doesn’t mean that false information can’t be spread. People who work in healthcare have duty to be transparent and should only provide accurate and correct information. In reality, physical therapists make shitty money considering how much we learn and the service we can provide. I can see how it would be super tempting to use social media to make a few extra dollars. Physical therapists have to figure out how to share information in a way that is digestible. I mean, talking about force couples is pretty fun, but content wise, might not be

exciting. This where we blend art with science.

So the next time you see someone use finite language: Before it’s too late! Always this way! Never do that! My way is the only way! Use a critical eye. It’s one thing to have cycles of enrollment. People creating real, personalized programs are usually a single person doing all the work and have figured out how give you personalized attention to help you achieve your goals.

But, to pander and use scare tactics to get people to subscribe to your program is not ok.




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