Physical therapists come in and out of our lives for various reasons. You may see a physical therapist proactively — to prevent pains and strains caused by sitting at a desk all day, or reduce the risk of sports injury. Or, you may visit a physical therapist reactively — when an injury is significantly reducing your movement, or you’re recovering post-surgery.
Despite countless reasons for visiting a physical therapist, the overarching goal is the same for all patients: to improve mobility and decrease pain. Once you’ve decided to see a physical therapist, you’ve already made an important step towards this goal! While your physical therapist is there to offer expert strategies, techniques, and guidance, it’s up to you to put in the work to achieve results.
Follow these steps to make the most of your physical therapy.
Choose the Right Physical Therapist
In sickness and in health — your physical therapist is with you for the long run. Adding a member to your health care roster is a big deal. Find a physical therapist who understands your needs now and for the future.
Physical Therapists often have different specialties — be it workplace injuries, post-surgery recovery, preventative measures, or support for existing conditions. While all professionals will have a broad base of knowledge, it’s best to find a professional who has experience dealing with your specific physical therapy needs. Your doctor may be able to recommend someone in your area. Outpatient Rehabilitation Services offered by a medical center can also be an excellent resource for finding treatment options.
If you found a physical therapist recommendation online or through a friend, you can easily verify their license using this site.
Set Physical Therapy Goals
There’s a reason you made a physical therapy appointment. Rather than simply telling your physical therapist which parts are stiff or aching, accompany your explanation with a list of what you’d like to achieve from your sessions.
If you’re recovering from a knee replacement surgery, perhaps you’d like to resume your daily activities within two months, and have a list of five daily exercises you can perform for the length of your recovery process. Like all good goals, these should be specific, timely, and measurable against some date or number.
In the first appointment with your physical therapist, the two of you should develop a game plan to achieve those goals, and discuss your progress at each subsequent appointment.
Prepare for Your Appointment
Gather all documents and other helpful information, and bring them with you to your first appointment — so your physical therapist can spend more time on treatment, and less on figuring out the logistics of your appointment. This includes your license, insurance cards, medical history, and a list of your current medications. Wear comfortable clothing that allows for easy mobility and activity.
Be ready to explain the physical therapy goals you’ve set, and your condition to-date. If you’re afraid you’ll forget to mention some key points, make a list of everything you’d like to tell the physical therapist, and bring it with you.
Fulfill Your Side of the Deal
Once you’ve had your first appointment and received a list of exercises from your physical therapist, the next step should be obvious: make sure you actually do them!
You won’t get anything out of physical therapy if you don’t put the work in. If the exercises are new to you, have your physical therapist demonstrate the movements during your appointment, so you aren’t left with question marks at home. If you do have questions or challenges when completing your “physical therapy homework,” write them down and ask about them during your next appointment. Physical Therapy can have a huge benefit to your personal health and wellbeing — so long as you take an active role in getting the most out of your sessions.