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Physical Therapy 101: Everything You Need to Know About Your First Visit

When you decide it’s time to try physical therapy, or your medical professional refers you to a physical therapist, the goal is to provide you with care aimed at easing pain and helping you function, move, and live a better quality life.

If you’ve never been to physical therapy (PT) before, you might be a bit intimidated and wonder what to expect. In order to assure that your first visit – and all your follow-up sessions – are positive experiences, here’s what you need to know.

Preparing for Your First PT Visit

To save time, bring your doctor’s referral for physical therapy if you have one. If you don’t have one, no problem – the staff can walk you through that process, simply let the clinic know when you schedule your visit. Also, bring your insurance card.

Be sure to wear loose-fitting clothing to your physical therapy visits. That way, your affected body part can be thoroughly examined. It will also make it easier for you to work out and do the necessary movements. You should also wear flat, supportive footwear, preferably shoes that facilitate exercise.

What to Expect When Arriving for Your First Physical Therapy Session

At your first physical therapy visit, a therapist will perform an initial evaluation of your condition. Although there may be other patients being treated, you will be attended to by your own licensed physical therapist. Most PT sessions last about one hour.

The initial examination typically takes place in a private room where you and the physical therapist will discuss your medical history, your current physical problems, the intensity of your pain, and how it impacts your daily activities or limits your functioning. You will also discuss your goals in having physical therapy, and any medications, tests, or procedures you have had that are related to your health.

Your physical therapist will then perform an evaluation, which may include one or more of the following:

  • Palpation – This involves checking for the presence of tenderness, swelling, soft-tissue temperature and integrity, and inflammation by touching the problem area.

  • Range of Motion (ROM) – The physical therapist will move your joints to test the quality of movement and check for any restrictions.

  • Muscle Testing – This is done to check for strength and the quality of muscle contraction, noting any pain or weakness.

  • Neurological Screening – The purpose of this test is to see how well your nerves are communicating with your muscles, such as sensing touch, pain, vibration, or temperature. Your reflexes may also be assessed.
  • Posture Assessment – With this test, the therapist evaluates the positions of joints relative to each other and compared to their ideal placement.

Depending on your specific condition, your physical therapist may also perform special tests designed to confirm or rule out the presence of other problems. During the examination and subsequent treatment, you may experience some discomfort, but it will be managed by your physical therapist, so you will never experience severe pain.

Following your initial evaluation, your physical therapist will formulate a list of the problems you are experiencing and will work with you to develop a personalized treatment plan. This will include the number of times you should receive physical therapy per week, how many weeks you will require physical therapy, any at-home programs (exercises which are recommended that you do on your own every day), patient education, the short- and long-term goals of therapy, and what to expect following discharge from therapy.

Physical Therapy Tailored to Your Needs

At H2 Health, we’re experts in treating movement disorders and can provide you with the rehabilitative tools and hands-on care you need for a full recovery. Our holistic treatment philosophy is focused on fixing the underlying problem, rather than merely masking the symptoms.

We specialize in orthopedic issues, but our highly trained physical therapists are skilled in treating numerous symptoms by providing a wide variety of specialty services, including:

To learn more about our services and to schedule your first appointment with one of our talented physical therapists, contact us today at (800) 699-9395 or fill out our appointment request form online now. We look forward to serving you!

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