10 Important Questions to Ask Your Physical Therapist
Updated: Apr 25
Physical therapy can help with a myriad of health issues and problems, but it's crucial to pick the best service provider and understand how the process will work to get the most of it.
The most important thing you can do to ensure the best therapy results is to have an open dialogue with your potential or current physical therapist. Only proper communication can give you all the information you need and help the therapist better understand your situation.
Asking questions gives you the ability to explain your issues to your therapist, understand the treatment steps, intricacies, and how you can contribute to your healing.
Here are 10 important questions to ask your physical therapist during your first appointment.
1. Do you commonly treat my condition?
The first question to ask your physical therapist (PT) is whether they commonly treat your condition. The answer will give you insight into their skills and experience.
It doesn't necessarily mean that the therapist is incompetent if they say they don't have much experience in your condition. However, it could reveal the need to find a PT who has experience treating your specific problem.
Physical therapists often specialize in different conditions and may have chosen to focus and get additional educational training on some specific areas (e.g., trauma, chronic illnesses, sports injuries, kids, geriatric patients, etc.).
Asking what type of additional training they have can also make it easier to understand their specialization, so make sure you do.
2. What specific type of physical therapy will be provided for my condition?
During your first appointment, the PT will ask you about your particular issue, medical history, symptoms, lifestyle, therapy goals, etc. You will also get a thorough physical exam to test your test, neurological function, range of motion, and such.
The in-depth assessment will help the PT understand your situation and prepare a treatment plan. To know what to expect and how your sessions will look, you should ask your PT what specific type of physical therapy will be provided.
The options include manual therapy, therapeutic exercises, balance training, pain modalities, massages, etc. The treatments can also change depending on your progress, so you can ask for an outline and what possible changes might occur.
3. How is physical therapy going to help me?
You're choosing physical therapy to get better, so it is only natural to ask your physical therapist how it will help you.
Setting ambitious yet reasonable goals and expectations is essential to avoid misunderstandings and disappointments.
The therapist should explain how the body works and heals, how PT influences your particular condition, and the best and worst-case scenarios. They should also give an overview of what outcomes you can expect in terms of working, enjoying your hobbies, etc.
4. How many times a week must I come to get results?
Knowing how much time you'll need to devote to therapy every week is vital so you can plan your other activities around them.
The PT should give you an estimated time frame and a recommended frequency of weekly sessions based on your condition and goals.
5. How long is each visit?
The therapist should be able to let you know the length of each session in advance. It can vary from 30 minutes to over an hour. Knowing the duration will make it easier to prepare for the sessions mentally and organize your time.
6. When can I expect to see results from physical therapy?
Every patient is different, and a PT should set the treatment goals accordingly. It is natural to expect a quick recovery; however, it takes time for the body to heal, and most likely, the results will come slower than patients would like to.
Ask your PT for a treatment length estimate with the best-case and worst-case scenarios, and be ready to hear any answer, even if you don't like it. Also, remember that the duration will depend on your progress.
7. Who will I see at each visit?
Even though your clinic might be able to set your appointments with the same therapist, remember that this might not always be possible.
That's why during your first session, ask what to expect to avoid confusion in the future. It's possible that you will do some sessions with your primary PT but will have an aide assist you with the exercises.
Another important thing to clarify is whether you'll have one-on-one time or will your therapist schedule two or more patients simultaneously. You might be okay with this, and it may be more budget-friendly, but if you don't know in advance, it can be an unpleasant surprise.
8. What do you expect from me?
Most of the time, only PT sessions at the clinic and your therapist's efforts will not be enough. Make sure you understand what is expected of you during those sessions and during the time in-between.
You will probably be asked to respect the appointment time, wear proper clothing, be motivated and cooperative during sessions, commit to a home exercise program, and such therapies as icing or heating.
9. What level of discomfort or pain can I expect during each physical therapy session?
According to Webmd.com, physical therapy shouldn't hurt. Still, because you'll use parts of your body that are injured or have chronic pain, physical therapy can be challenging, and you may feel sore after stretching or deep tissue massage.
Your PT should be able to tell you what to expect based on your condition and give tips on how to cope with challenging moments during and after the sessions.
10. Do you accept my insurance?
Lastly, physical therapy is also a financial commitment, so you should ask the PT about your financial responsibilities and whether they accept your insurance.
According to TheBalance.com, the law requires physical therapy and other rehabilitation services to be covered by the Affordable Care Act (ACA)-compliant and state-marketplace health insurance under "essential benefits." However, some clinics might not work with your particular insurance or have additional terms and conditions.
Understanding this first thing will help you avoid misunderstandings and significant expenses in the future. If the PT doesn't work with your insurance provider, you should find an alternative one that does.