What to Expect at Your First Physical Therapy Appointment

Physical therapy is a broad-based field that encompasses all disorders of functional movement. Physical therapy can help with recovery from medical conditions ranging from sprains to heart attacks, and physical therapists work with patients of all ages in a wide variety of settings. Yet many people who are referred for physical therapy have no idea what will happen. Here is what to expect at your first physical therapy appointment, and how to prepare for your appointment.

Before Your Appointment

Your physical therapist will need a complete health history from you. Carefully assess the symptoms you are currently experiencing, starting with the one that is most bothersome. Determine whether it gets better or worse with rest, at certain times of day, and with specific positions or movements.

Next, list all injuries, illnesses, incidents, stressors, and other factors that seem connected to your symptoms. Write down any diagnoses you have, any instructions from your doctor, and all current medications including vitamins, herbs, and supplements. Also list any significant health events in your past and all medical conditions your parents and siblings have (or had, if deceased).

Finally, write down everything you want to ask your physical therapist. Physical therapy is a collaborative field, and physical therapists are committed to patient education.

Your First Appointment

Wear comfortable clothing that is easy to move around in and allows your physical therapist to access the part of your body that needs treatment. If you have x-rays, MRIs, or other diagnostic reports, bring copies if possible. Also bring the names and phone numbers of any health care professionals you would like us to keep informed of your progress. You may want to bring a friend or relative along to help you remember details.

First, your physical therapist will ask you several questions about your symptoms and your overall health. The more detailed you can be in your responses, the easier it will be for your physical therapist to determine which treatments are appropriate for you.

Next is a comprehensive examination. Depending on your symptoms and which part of your body is affected, your physical therapist might evaluate your balance, flexibility, strength, coordination, and posture, as well as your heart rate, respiration, and blood pressure. You might also be asked to walk for a gait evaluation, and possibly to perform functional activities such as standing up, bending, and lifting. You will also receive a manual exam of the affected body part.

Your therapist may also ask questions about your job duties, recreational activities, health habits, and home environment. You might also be evaluated for assistive devices such as orthopedic shoes, a cane, crutches, or a walker. If you are at risk for falls, your physical therapist might make suggestions for adaptive home equipment.

In most cases, your physical therapist will work with you to set short-term and long-term goals and develop a treatment plan, and then start treating you right away. If you have intense pain or very restricted mobility, those issues will be addressed before any exercises begin. Throughout treatment, your physical therapist will closely monitor your responses to various techniques and make adjustments as necessary to minimize pain.

Future Appointments

As you progress through physical therapy, you will do more and more stretching and strengthening exercises both in the treatment room and at home. Your physical therapist may also use manual therapy techniques to relieve stuck areas and increase range of motion. Education is a core component of physical therapy, so your therapist will always explain what you are being asked to do and why. If you have any questions at all, be sure to ask.

Ready to Get Started?

If you are seeking a customized, innovative approach to physical therapy in Matawan, NJ, please contact Matawan Physical Therapy at (732) 662-4400 to schedule your initial assessment.