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Navigating Your Physical Therapy Experience

Embarking on a physical therapy journey can be a transformative experience, empowering individuals to overcome injuries, manage chronic conditions, and improve their overall quality of life. Whether you're recovering from surgery, rehabilitating from an injury, or seeking relief from chronic pain, physical therapy offers personalized care and evidence-based interventions tailored to your unique needs. In this guide, we'll explore what to expect during a course of physical therapy, including what to expect on your first day, working with a team of physical therapists (PTs) and physical therapist assistants (PTAs), as well as considerations for attire.

One of the key aspects of physical therapy is the collaborative effort between physical therapists (PTs) and physical therapist assistants (PTAs) to deliver comprehensive care to our patients. PTs are highly trained healthcare professionals who evaluate and diagnose movement dysfunctions, develop treatment plans, and oversee the delivery of care. PTAs work under the supervision of PTs to implement treatment interventions, monitor progress, and provide support to patients throughout their rehabilitation journey. Continuous communication occurs between both the physical therapists and physical therapist assistants. This ensures effective coordination of patient care, allows for seamless transitions between treatments, promotes alignment with treatment goals, and facilitates adjustments to the treatment plan based on patient progress or changing needs. This collaboration enhances the quality of care provided to patients and optimizes treatment outcomes.

During your initial evaluation, you'll meet with a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) who will conduct a thorough assessment of your condition, including a review of your medical history, evaluation of your range of motion, strength, flexibility, and functional mobility, and identification of your treatment goals. Based on this assessment, the PT will develop a personalized treatment plan tailored to address your specific needs and goals. They will go over their assessment with you, discuss the plan moving forward, and typically will give you some things to work on at home; this is called a home exercise program (HEP).

After the initial evaluation, you'll proceed to your follow-up sessions, often referred to as "treatments." During these sessions, your therapist, whether it's your supervising PT or a PTA, carefully reviews your evaluation to tailor the treatment session according to your specific needs and goals. In addition, during the treatments, patients undergo a variety of interventions aimed at improving their physical function, reducing pain, and promoting recovery. The specific treatments can vary depending on the patient's condition, goals, and the therapist's assessment. Throughout your course of physical therapy, you'll work closely with both the PT and PTA team to progress through your treatment plan. They will guide you through therapeutic exercises, manual therapy techniques, neuromuscular re-education, and functional activities designed to improve your strength, mobility, and overall function. Additional interventions such as modalities electrical stimulation, dry needling, or blood flow restriction may be included as deemed appropriate by your treatment team in consult with you. They will also provide education on proper body mechanics, injury prevention strategies, and self-care techniques to support your recovery. PTs will regularly evaluate your progress, adjust your treatment plan as needed, and provide guidance and support to ensure you're on track to meet your goals. The PTAs' insights are frequently sought to gauge patient progress or identify persistent issues present during treatment. Our PTs here at Healthwise are specialized in techniques such as dry needling and manual therapy to address specific impairments and promote healing.

Often patients want to know how long they will be attending physical therapy. This depends on many factors including the specific condition you are coming to therapy for, how long your condition has been present, the activities that you are trying to return to, and how you respond to treatment. There will be multiple assessments throughout your course of treatment to determine your progress toward your goals. Discharge planning will be a collaborative decision between you and your physical therapist. Unfortunately the length of time that someone will attend therapy varies from person to person and is not an easy thing to determine.

When attending physical therapy sessions, it's important to wear comfortable clothing that allows for ease of movement and access to the areas being treated. Opt for loose-fitting clothing such as athletic wear or gym attire that allows you to perform exercises and activities without restriction. Consider wearing supportive athletic shoes with good cushioning and stability, especially if you'll be engaging in weight-bearing exercises or activities that involve walking or standing. Avoid wearing sandals, flip-flops, or shoes with heels, as these may impede your ability to perform certain exercises safely. At Healthwise, we're comfortable with clients not wearing shoes, but we do ask that you wear socks during your visit unless advised differently. Additionally, bringing along a water bottle and towel can also be helpful, especially if you'll be engaging in exercises that induce sweating or require hydration.

Navigating a course of physical therapy can be an empowering journey toward improved health and function. By understanding what to expect during your treatment, working collaboratively with a team of PTs and PTAs, and dressing appropriately for your sessions, you can maximize the benefits of physical therapy and achieve your rehabilitation goals. Remember to communicate openly with your therapy team, ask questions, and actively participate in your treatment to optimize your outcomes and enhance your overall well-being.


Avery Levonuk, PTA

Specialty Certification in Orthopedics


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