Whether it’s following surgery, a car accident, that old sports injury flaring up again, or just a frustrating case of chronic back pain, your doctor or chiropractor might suggest physical therapy or rehab as a logical next step in your pain management in tandem with conventional treatment.
The reasons for pursuing outpatient therapy are myriad, as are the seemingly endless number of physical therapists, making the quest for a good PT somewhat daunting, to say the least. (Did you know there are nearly 313,000 licensed PTs across the country, making physical therapy a $46 billion industry?)
Read on to find out how to research and find a good physical therapist to get you back on the eventual road to recovery.
Are You Doing Your Due Diligence?
Ask yourself some relevant questions before choosing a PT:
What do physical therapists do? According to the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), PTs are licensed movement experts who can diagnose, treat and improve one’s quality of life through a combination of prescribed exercise, and hands-on healthcare for those struggling with health conditions necessitating treatment, or for people seeking preventive maintenance.
What’s their focus area? The right therapist should match your individual needs or ailments. From orthopedic, cardiovascular and pulmonary treatment, to electrophysiology, sports medicine, or pediatrics and geriatrics are just a few of the specialized areas a PT may be skilled in. Start by calling clinics or asking your doctor for the right referral.
Are they certified? The APTA maintains that the most important priority in choosing the right PT is making sure they have a degree from an officially recognized and accredited physical therapy program, and that they have completed their national licensure examination. (Some common designations include:
- PT (Physical Therapist)
- DPT (Doctor of Physical Therapy)
- OCS (Orthopedic Clinical Specialist)
- SCS (Sports Clinical Specialist)
- CSCS (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist)
Do They Treat Discomfort With Comfort?
It goes without saying that physical therapy is more than just therapy; it’s a one-on-one clinical relationship where the right physical therapist should make you feel comfortable, be sensitive to your needs and put you at total ease during all phases of treatment. Do you get along with your therapist? Are you able to convey your concerns, and does your PT have the communication skills to answer and address all your questions? Treatment should involve trusting your therapist to gently guide you through your therapeutic journey to facilitate healing — not exacerbating — your symptoms.
What Are Your PT’s Processes?
Automatic versus manual, passive versus active — that is the question when selecting a physical therapist. A PT who relies too heavily on using machinery or tech — think too much time hooked up to muscle stimulation nodes or left to your lonesome performing repetitive motions, as opposed to personalized, hands-on care every step of the way — may not be the right PT for your evolving needs. With those needs in mind, are the exercises your PT prescribes continuing to increase in intensity (a sign of improved strength and recovery), or does therapy feel redundant and stagnant? A good therapist should continue to push you toward progress, not keep recovery out of reach.
Is Your Treatment Tailored?
A PT plan should — ideally — be customized according to a patient’s individual medical concerns. Although tendonitis, joint replacement, repetitive motion injuries or post-operative care may share some common diagnostics, the causes, symptoms, treatment and recovery outcomes will vary from patient to patient. A PT who recognizes this will tailor their patients’ treatment plans on a case-by-case, not a generic, all-conditions-under-one-umbrella basis.
Likewise, a PT who assigns homework — think take-home stretches, body-weight exercises, movements that encourage improved mobility — is a PT invested in helping you reach your goals. Encouraging you to take an involved role in your rehabilitation outside the therapist’s office facilitates faster, not prolonged, recovery.
Have They Set a Deadline?
Your first PT appointment should begin a trajectory of treatment that ultimately has a finite end point depending on the nature of your therapy and your projected progress. The last thing physical therapy should be about is spinning your wheels with no goal in sight (or worse, worsened symptoms); rather, the right PT devises a game plan, using their best judgment to create a therapeutic timeline according to the severity of your condition, making the most of your in-office and at-home work while knowing when to modify your treatment. Most important? The right PT will consult with you first before making any changes to treatment — illustrating that, while your PT possesses the clinical expertise, you’re in control of your recovery.
Making the Match
Once you know what to look for in a PT, what was once a daunting search for the right fit has become more seamless with the advent of technology to sync patients with providers. Downloading the TherApp gives users the chance to remotely connect with therapists and healthcare professionals, plus allows you to track your progress and access exercises, message your clinician and more for a streamlined, easier patient experience. Get in touch with us today to learn more about why the TherApp is the right choice for your physical therapy regimen.