So. You’ve gotten a referral from your doctor to visit a physical therapist due to an injury. You have never done physical therapy before, so you’re unsure, a million questions flying through your head. You liked to be prepared, to know what’s coming next. So, you think: What’s the process like? How do I need to prepare? What can I expect?
Let me calm a few of your fears—despite what you may be thinking, it’s nothing to be afraid of. In fact, it’s something you should welcome with open arms, to help guide you and your body back to strength.
Here’s what to expect when visiting a physical therapist.
What is a physical therapist?
First off, what even is a physical therapist? A physical therapist (PT) is a trained professional, educated to help treat you back to health after experiencing an illness, surgery, or an injury of any form. Their job is to give you a diagnosis, treatment, and exercises to gain mobility back where you may have lost it, or likewise of the sort.
On your first visit with a PT, you can expect…
During your first visit with your PT, you will discuss your specific health situation and with them, figure out a plan to help you strengthen your body. They will ask you questions regarding your pain, where you are feeling it, the level of your pain, and will need details on your health history. Be prepared to give your PT all the information they may need so they can help heal you appropriately.
After you discuss this with your PT, you will then most likely move on to the mobility part of your visit. Your PT will want you to get up and move, so make sure to wear comfortable clothes for your first visit. You don’t want to be dressed uncomfortably when you already are having discomfort in some part of your body in the first place. Make it easier on yourself, and dress comfortably.
Evaluation can be a big word, but don’t worry. This part isn’t anything to be afraid of during your first visit. During the evaluation, your PT will then assess your range of motion, strength, flexibility, mobility, coordination, balance, posture, and muscle function, to name a few. Don’t worry about your status on any of these above criteria points. It is only an evaluation to help heal your body and strengthen it. Your PT's job is to assess your body accordingly so they can give you the best treatment for your specific condition. This is why it helps to know of any pre-existing medical conditions before stepping into the evaluation section of your first visit with a PT.
Diagnosis + Further Steps
After your evaluation, your PT will then determine a diagnosis for your condition. Following your diagnosis, they will communicate with your doctor to help figure out the best treatment plan for your specific health situation.
Your PT will then work closely with you to help you set goals for each visit following the first. Most likely, they will give you some at-home exercises to do, and specific things to work on when you come into their office, to prepare you.
It’s encouraged by your physical therapist to ask them any questions or concerns you may have. This is your body, after all. You deserve to know what is going on and how your PT is going to help you. Ask questions about certain exercises they want to have you do or what the purpose is. This will help bring you comfort in knowing what you’re working toward and help you feel a sense of accomplishment, knowing you’re doing the best thing for your body—healing it appropriately and with a trained professional aiding you in the process.
Follow Your PT’s Instructions
Although it may be nerve-wracking to go to a physical therapist for the first time, don’t be worried. Your PT's job is to help you and be there for you. They won’t guide you in the wrong direction, they are only there to help you strengthen your body.
Even though anything new is scary, trust your PT. They know what they’re doing. And if you’re unsure of what’s going on, just ask some questions. Your PT will be happy to answer, only wanting to help you better understand your condition and their practices. Embrace the healing journey that your PT is going to help you with and you’ll be happy you did so.
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