When seeking a physical therapist best suited to treat your condition, it is important to carefully consider your specific needs and goals. The mindset that you are the CEO of your health care team will invariably increase your chances of a favorable outcome. With this mindset comes the responsibility of having hiring and firing capabilities as well as management, communication, and follow-through duties.
To meet your management responsibilities, try jotting down any pertinent information during your appointment so that you remember any suggestions offered. Remember, too, to diligently practice any exercises you are issued; this will enhance motor learning and make them more proficient later. And also remember to ask questions and share insights with your therapist—intuition is powerful.
Next, consider some salient factors when selecting a physical therapist:
In most cases, physical therapy is not a quick fix. Injuries—whether from trauma or overuse—require at least a few visits to both undo the soft tissue and anatomic changes and to strengthen and stabilize so that the issue does not return. Post surgical conditions generally require greater time frames. With this in mind, it is paramount to choose a facility near your home or work place to avoid scheduling issues. If you can’t schedule or keep your appointments, you increase the chance of an unfavorable outcome.
Quality of Clinic
Although some will disagree with this statement, empirical evidence indicates there is a correlation been the amount of one-on-one time spent with a therapist and a favorable outcome. As a rule, seek out clinics that only schedule one-hour initial evaluations with subsequent, one-on-one visits at least 30-minutes long. Unfortunately, such lengthy, focused visits are becoming rare as the result of stagnant and declining reimbursement rates. As one-on-one time decreases, the quality of care declines substantially, the skill of the practitioner notwithstanding.
Physical therapy is an evolving field. To stay current, physical therapists should regularly read peer-reviewed journals and attend continuing education seminars to hone their skills, increase their knowledge base, and understand the latest and most efficacious treatment techniques. Your therapist should be able to clearly communicate the benefits of the interventions he/she would consider during an initial visit or pre-visit consultation. Physical therapists often specialize in different areas (e.g., vestibular, musculoskeletal, and neurological) and treatment techniques (McKenzie, ART, HVLAT, and Pilates). Seek a physical therapist with a treatment style that matches what you want and one who has the appropriate training to effectively treat your particular condition.
Since concerns and questions most likely will arise, it should be considered acceptable to send an email or call a physical therapist before your initial visit and during the course of your treatment. Questions may include “Have you treated my condition before?” and “What are the chances of me returning to playing tennis?” In addition, it is important to communicate if a home exercise is causing more pain so that your therapist can adapt your treatment plan.
These are my succinct suggestions for finding the right physical therapist for you. Remember to ask questions, openly provide insight, and be a partner in your physical therapist care. Your outcome is a joint venture.