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Small talk in physiotherapy

By Andrew Pirie

In a busy physiotherapy job, you might not think you have time for small talk but chatting with a patient about something other than their health issues can help put them at ease and build trust.

Establishing a good rapport with your patient is a key ability for any healthcare professional. But it's particular important in physiotherapy roles, where good communication skills are vital to delivering excellent care. It's not just about showing your human side. It's also about creating a relaxed atmosphere. By doing so, you'll hopefully make your patient feel comfortable enough to share valuable information about their musculoskeletal problems which can help you provide diagnosis and treatment more effectively.

Not everyone is naturally gregarious and you may find you struggle to make small talk that doesn't sound forced or inappropriate. Don't worry. Good communication skills can be learned. So, here are a few tips to help you become a leading practitioner in the art of conversation...

Small talk doesn't have to be trivial

If you want to engage with someone, you need to find a topic of discussion that's interesting and relevant to them. There are several options, some of which could also be relevant to your job as a physiotherapist. For example, you could ask them about their work, hobbies and leisure activities, all of which may have an impact on their physical fitness and mobility.


Physiotherapy jobs can be demanding and it's all too easy to focus on the condition, not the patient. Small talk can help, but remember, it's as important to listen as it is to chat. Good communication is always a two-way street.

Think before you speak

Physiotherapists deal with all sorts of people of all ages. When you're making small talk, it's important to be aware not just of cultural or religious sensitivities, but also of issues relating to gender, age, socio-economic factors and disability.

Be careful with humour

It may seem like a good idea to break the ice with a joke or two. But remember, not everyone will share your sense of humour and you could easily offend if you're not careful.

Don't force the conversation

Some people are naturally shy and may not be comfortable with making small talk. Don't try to make them discuss non-health-related topics if they don't want to. Just focus on your job as a physiotherapist. They may feel more comfortable with chatting when they know you better.