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How Can Optimism Impact Rehabilitation Outcomes?

Updated: Feb 4



Introduction


Rehabilitation outcomes are influenced by a variety of factors, including physical health, mental health, stress, social support, as well as optimism. Optimism involves approaching the future with hope, which has a direct impact on how patients perceive their injury or disease and rehabilitation. Given the profound effect injuries and diseases can have on patients’ well-being, it is important that health care professionals provide patient education that promotes hope during the rehabilitation journey. 


Optimism in rehabilitation  


Optimism has a positive impact on rehabilitation because it allows patients to believe in their ability to cope with their situation, providing them with a greater sense of perceived control of their injury or condition. Possessing confidence in one’s coping resources leads to hopefulness in recovery and their ability to execute behaviours that will lead to positive outcomes. Thus, optimism is associated with patients’ embodying an adaptive approach to rehabilitation and enhanced adherence to care. Further, optimism has shown to reduce distress and improve life satisfaction, mental health, and wellbeing during patients’ recovery. The health benefits of optimism in rehabilitation have been demonstrated with a variety of patient populations, including those with cardiovascular disease, spinal cord injuries, sports injuries, strokes, brain injuries, and more. For example, optimistic individuals who experience a cardiovascular event have presented with lower cardiovascular disease risk, morbidity, and mortality. Overall, it is evident that hope can greatly influence patients’ recovery outcomes.  

 


Catastrophizing in rehabilitation  


One’s perception of their injury or condition can also negatively influence recovery. Specifically, catastrophizing is a coping style that occurs when people anticipate poor recovery outcomes. Research has shown that catastrophizing can increase patients’ risk of experiencing persistent pain and disability. For example, it can make it difficult for patients to believe in the benefits of care, subsequently impacting adherence to treatment. Further, the increase in pain can make patients more fearful of exercises that cause muscle soreness. Catastrophizing in rehabilitation is important to address because it can negatively impact patients’ level of functioning, pain severity, and treatment outcomes.  

 


What promotes optimism in rehabilitation?  


There are many ways for optimism to be promoted in rehabilitation to help improve patients’ recovery. Firstly, it is important for health care professionals to be aware of the wide range of factors that impact pain severity and recovery, so they can recognize treatment barriers and tailor care accordingly. Factors that promote optimism include a supportive health care team, sense of empowerment, acceptance, patient education, and self-efficacy. Specifically, health care professionals can encourage empowerment by ensuring patients and their caregivers feel confident in their abilities to manage the condition. Self-efficacy can be promoted in rehabilitation through mastery experiences, which lead to increased perseverance and hope about the future. Further, patients are able to display more optimism when they have accepted their situation and feel comfortable receiving help from others. It is typically easier for patients to display acceptance when they find new activities of enjoyment to participate in as it can be difficult for people to give up activities they once enjoyed due to their health. As evidenced by the literature, optimism is an important factor to consider and address in rehabilitation as it can greatly impact patients’ level of functioning and well-being during and after care.  

 

 


 

References  

Aparicio, M. G., Carrard, V., Kunz, S., Morselli, D., Post, M. W. M., & Peter, C. (2021). Longitudinal Changes in Psychological Adaptation Outcomes During Spinal Cord Injury Inpatient Rehabilitation. Rehabilitation Psychology, 66(4), 491–506. https://doi.org/10.1037/rep0000396 

 

Flanigan, D. C., Everhart, J. S., & Glassman, A. H. (2015). Psychological Factors Affecting Rehabilitation and Outcomes Following Elective Orthopaedic Surgery. Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, 23(9), 563–570. https://doi.org/10.5435/JAAOS-D-14-00225 

 

Glazer, K. M., Emery, C. F., Frid, D. J., & Banyasz, R. E. (2002). Psychological predictors of adherence and outcomes among patients in cardiac rehabilitation. Journal of Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation, 22(1), 40–46. https://doi.org/10.1097/00008483-200201000-00006 

 

Javdaneh, N., Saeterbakken, A. H., Shams, A., & Barati, A. H. (2021). Pain neuroscience education combined with therapeutic exercises provides added benefit in the treatment of chronic neck pain. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(16). https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18168848 


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