What to Expect on My First Visit to Physical Therapy


If you’re here, you’ve most likely struggled recovering from some sort of injury or condition and have been recommended (or have had success in the past with) physical therapy.  That is all and well, but I’m guessing you might have questions… like,  “What is Physical Therapy? What can I expect on my first visit?”

In a nutshell, Physical Therapists work on restoring your body’s ability to function and move with less pain and more ability with day to day activities and recreation. We look at getting you back to all the things you love to do following a setback – whether it is due to an injury or some other reason. We treat everything from vertigo to breathing and anxiety to low back pain and everywhere in between. So, if you’re looking into physical therapy, here’s what you can expect from your first visit:

In our clinic, you are scheduled with a Doctor of Physical Therapy for your evaluation.  We will initially discuss issues, concerns, get any relevant medical history that can impact our treatment, and then discuss your goals and what you want to achieve with Physical Therapy (most important thing!).  After we get to know you and understand what you’re looking to achieve, we begin our full body assessment looking at posture, the way you walk and how you move by having you go through a series of movements. For us, we use the Selective Functional Movement Assessment – this is a movement based exam that we can use to see what movement patterns are recreating your limitations. Depending on how you do with the series of movements dictates what usually happens next.  Did you struggle with a movement? Do you not move as well as you should? This all can play a role in what we need to work on in physical therapy. We will then further investigate what my be causing this faulty movement pattern. Is pain limiting you? Is it because you are lacking mobility or is it a strength issue? Maybe both? We will explore that area through further tests to get to the bottom of what is causing your issue.  As we examine not only your movement, but your tissue mobility and joint mobility as well,  will get a sense of how your tissue is moving and more than likely find some painful areas that relate to your symptoms (and additional areas that you were not even aware of that hurt as well!)

We will interpret how this relates to your exam and your limitations and include the pertinent ones in our plan to get you better. After our exam we will have a game plan to get you on the road to recovery. It’s at this point, we will begin the process of designing an individualized program to target your needs to get you up and running again including manual, hands on therapy (joint mobilizations, dry needling, soft tissue work, cupping, Graston Technique) as well as exercise based interventions (the physical part in physical therapy!). You will be given a set of exercises/homework to begin addressing your needs at home to help complement the therapy in the clinic. The more you are diligent about doing your homework, the faster your recovery will be.  After that we can apply pain reducing modalities if necessary and set up our follow up appointments. Most folks we see for 4-6 weeks but every person and condition is widely variable so this will depend on YOU and YOU alone. For this first visit, you can expect to be in our office for an hour to an hour and a half depending on paperwork, the exam, and the interventions.  Some tips make the first visit go as smooth as possible include:

 

  1. Come in 15-25 minutes early to fill out your paperwork.  We want to maximize our time with you!
  2. Come in comfortable loose fitting/workout clothes so we can easily move you and you can easily move!
  3. Trust the process.  Your issue likely did not occur overnight, recovery will not happen overnight either. The body needs time to heal and learn. Physical therapy is rarely a magic overnight pill but rather a long term investment. 
  4. Do you homework/exercises! This is the glue that keeps treatment together!

Physical therapy is one of the effective, conservative routes you can take with an injury or limitation. We are here every step of the way to ensure you reach your goals and stay the course as the healing progresses. You have access to us via email, phone and text- if you ever need anything please don’t hesitate to reach out to us!

We can’t wait to see you get better!