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7 Ways to Prepare for Physical Therapy
last updated:
Thu, 4/08/2010 3:40 PM

Hello. I am Dawn Caldwell, PT. I have worked as a physical therapist for 19 years and work in the homecare environment with my patients. Some people refer to PT as pain and torture but it refers to a physical therapist. There are some things you should know before you are referred to physical therapy. 

If you go to your doctor with a problem and he says, "we are going to try some physical therapy to help you," you need to educate and prepare yourself so you know what to expect. Here are some ways to be ready for that first physical therapy visit:

  1. Ask your doctor what type of therapy you will be doing and what to expect.
  2. If you have a specific problem like a wound, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, lymphodema, chronic pain, stroke, orthopaedic problem, then ask the doctor who he recommends because therapists have different training, specialties and certifications. 
  3. Ask your friends if they have had physcial therapy, what their experience was and if they would recommend their physical therapist. You must still be referred by your doctor, but this will give you a name to start with.
  4. Go and visit the facility. When you make your appointment, do it in person and meet the therapist. Look around and see if the facility is clean, see if the therapists give the patients one on one, or if it is like a gym and fitness center.  
  5. Make sure your insurance covers the physical therapy and the clinic where you were referred. See what your out of pocket expense will be. 
  6. Before your appointment for your evaluation, write down your problem in detail.  Therapist are usually good listeners and like facts on your history, medications, sleeping patterns, recent changes in activity, what can you do and don’t do, why are you here for therapy—in addition to the fact that the doctor sent you. 
  7. Think about your goal. What do you want to accomplish? What is the realistic outcome of therapy? Communicate all this with your therapist because it will help establish a plan of care that will meet your needs.

When you arrive for your first physical therapy appointment, wear comfortable clothes and athletic shoes for your evaluation and therapy sessions. Relax and talk to your therapist. It is important that you feel comfortable talking to him or her about what is going on. I have talked with patients and found that the reason for the cramps or pain in their legs might be due to not taking their potassium as ordered, that another doctor has ordered a new medicine with pain as a side effect, not sleeping at night. When they saw the doctor this was not addressed.

So, the most important thing you can do is COMMUNICATE with your physical therapist and your doctor so you can get the best treatment for yourself.

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Dawn Caldwell is a Physical Therapist with Methodist Healthcare. All opinions expressed here are those of their authors and not of their employer. Information provided here is for medical education only. It is not intended as and does not substitute for medical advice.

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Methodist Healthcare is an integrated health care delivery system, dedicated to the art of healing through our faith-based commitment to minister to the whole person. 1211 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee 38104 • (901) 516-7000

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