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Patient Frequently Asked Questions

Can I go directly to a Physical Therapist or PT clinic?

Many states have some form of direct access. Some state physical therapy practice acts require a diagnosis before a patient can see a therapist (this is the case in California, Michigan, and Colorado to name a few). Other states allow patients to go directly to physical therapists. In most cases, if you are not making significant improvement within 30 days, the therapist will refer you to/back to your physician.

What happens during my first visit?

During your first visit you can typically expect the following:
  • First, arrive promptly for your appointment. In some cases you can download the paperwork from the clinic’s website; if so, then bring the completed paperwork.
  • You will provide them with your prescription for physical therapy.
  • They will copy your insurance card.
  • You will be seen for the initial evaluation by the therapist.
  • The therapist will usually discuss the following:
    1. Your medical history.
    2. Your current problems/complaints.
    3. Pain intensity, what aggravates and eases the problem.
    4. How this is impacting your daily activities or your functional limitations.
    5. Your goals with physical rehab therapy.
    6. Medications, tests, and procedures related to your health.
  • The therapist will then perform an objective evaluation and formulate a list of problems you are having, and how to treat those problems. A plan is subsequently developed with the patient's input. This includes how many times you should see the therapist per week, how many weeks you will need therapy, home programs, patient education, short-term/long-term goals, and what is expected after discharge from therapy. This plan is created with input from you, your therapist, and your doctor.

What should I bring with me?

Make sure you bring your therapy referral (provided to you by your doctor) and your payment information. If your insurance is covering the cost of the therapy, bring your insurance card. If you are covered by Workers' Compensation, bring your claim number and your case manager's contact information. If you are covered by auto insurance or an attorney lien, make sure you bring this information.

How should I dress?

You should wear loose fitting clothing so you can expose the area that will be evaluated and treated. For example, if you have a knee problem, it is best to wear shorts. For a shoulder problem, a tank top is a good choice, and for low back problems, wear a loose fitting shirt and pants, again so that the therapist can perform a thorough examination.

How long will each treatment last?

Treatment sessions typically last 30 to 60 minutes per visit.

How many visits will I need?

This is highly variable. You may need one visit or you may need months of care. It depends on your diagnosis, the severity of your impairments, your past medical history, etc. You will usually be re-evaluated on a monthly basis and when you see your doctor, your therapist will provide you with a progress report with his/her recommendations.

Will I get a massage?

Massage may be part of your treatment. Rehabilitation specialists are trained in a variety of techniques that may help with your recovery. Deep tissue techniques may be part of the rehabilitative process. Massage is used for three reasons typically - to facilitate venous return from a swollen area, to relax a tight muscle, or to relieve pain. Contrary to common thought, massage does not increase circulation.

What happens if my problem or pain returns?

Flare ups are not uncommon. If you have a flare up (exacerbation), please call you therapist. They may may suggest you come back to see them, return to your doctor, or simply modify your daily activities or exercise routine.

What will I have to do after physical therapy?

Some patients will need to continue with home exercises. Some may choose to continue with a gym exercise program. Others will complete their rehabilitation and return to normal daily activities. It is important that you communicate your goals to your therapist, so he/she can develop a custom program for you.
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