Frequently Asked Questions
- Make a list of any questions that you might have, so that you can make the best use of your time with your physical therapist.
- Write down any symptoms you've been having and for how long. If you have more than one symptom, begin with the one that is the most bothersome to you.
- Make specific notes about your symptoms and what activities or positions that may affect them.
- Write down key information about your medical history, even if it seems unrelated to the condition for which you are seeing the physical therapist.
- Make a list of all prescription and over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements that you are taking.
- Make a note of any important personal information, including recent stressful events in your life.
- Write down and describe any injuries, incidents, or environmental factors that you believe might have contributed to your condition.
- Consider taking a family member or trusted friend along to help you remember details from your own health history and to take notes.
- Make sure you can see and hear as well as possible. If you wear glasses, take them with you. If you use a hearing aid, make certain that it is working well.
- If available, bring any lab or diagnostic reports from other health care professionals who have treated you for your current condition.
- Bring a list of the names of your physician and other health care professionals that youwould like your physical therapist to contact.
Your physical therapist will begin by asking you questions about your health and about the specific condition you want the physical therapist to treat. Detailed information about you and your condition will help the physical therapist determine whether you are likely to benefit from physical therapy and which treatments are most likely to help you.
Your physical therapist will perform a detailed examination consisting of subjective information from the patient and objective information form tests and measures to be performed by the therapist. Depending on your symptoms and condition, the physical therapist might evaluate your strength, flexibility, balance, coordination, posture, and heart and respiration rates. Your physical therapist might use his or her hands to examine or "palpate" the affected area or to perform a detailed examination of the mobility of your joints, muscles, and other tissues.
The therapist will then formulate a list of problems you are having, and how to treat those problems while determining 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.
No matter what area of the body ails you – neck, back, shoulder, elbow, wrist/hand, hip, knee, or ankle/foot – physical therapists have an established history of helping individuals improve their quality of life. A physical therapist can help you move freely again without pain and discomfort and feeling renewed and ready to move on. They can even help you prevent an injury altogether. Physical therapists can help you avoid painful, invasive and expensive surgery, in many instances. For example, research shows that physical therapy, combined with comprehensive medical management, is just as effective as surgery when it comes to relieving the pain and stiffness of moderate to severe osteoarthritis of the knee. Pursuing an exercise program designed by a physical therapist can be one of the best protections from injury and surgery. Explore the many ways in which a physical therapist can help you improve your mobility.
Physical therapists can help reduce and manage pain, including low back pain, which affects up to 80 percent of Americans during their lifetime. Physical therapy that mobilizes the spine along with specific exercises can help alleviate the pain and can have long-lasting effects.
If you are at risk of heart disease, the American Heart Association encourages seeing a physical therapist for the initial treatment of pain resulting from tendinitis/bursitis, degenerative joint problems (osteoarthritis), and inflammatory joint problems (rheumatoid arthritis), rather than prescription pain medication. Physical therapists are a great alternative to medication and surgery for musculoskeletal pain. Research shows individuals who receive active physical therapy experience greater improvement in function and decreased pain intensity.
No matter what part of your body hurts, a physical therapist can help you alleviate or manage pain without costly medication or other invasive methods, in many cases.
Physical therapists apply research and proven techniques to help people get back in motion. All physical therapists are required to receive a graduate degree – either a master's degree or a clinical doctorate — from an accredited physical therapist program before taking the national licensure examination that allows them to practice. State licensure is required in each state in which a physical therapist practices. They are trusted health care professionals and experts in human movement and the musculo-skeletal system with extensive clinical experience who examine, diagnose, and then prevent or treat conditions that limit the body's ability to move and function in daily life.
More and more physical therapists are now graduating with a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree. More than 92% of the 210 accredited academic institutions nationwide offering professional physical therapist education programs now offer the DPT degree – and more than 75% of all 2008 PT graduates hold a DPT degree.
Physical therapists provide care for people in a variety of settings, including hospitals, private practices, outpatient clinics, home health agencies, schools, sports and fitness facilities, work settings, and nursing homes.
Physical therapists diagnose and treat people of all ages, including newborns, children, and elderly individuals. They may consult and practice with other health professionals to help you improve your mobility.