What to Wear to Physical Therapy?
You may have been referred to physical therapy by your general practitioner, or maybe you've been to a consultation at a PT clinic after experiencing pain for a while. Either way, if it's your first time, you might have questions about what you should bring to the session, how long it will last, or very commonly, what you should wear to it.
We hear the question "what should I wear to physical therapy" every day and understand that it can get confusing to many.
In this article, we're talking about what to wear to physical therapy in depth, so you're ready the next time you have an appointment!
What Should You Wear to a Physical Therapy Appointment?
There is a lot of movement during physical therapy sessions. From stretches to manual therapy, your body will always be moving. What you wear to physical therapy will affect the entire experience, so we recommend not shrugging this off.
The first rule of dressing for PT is wearing clothes that allow you to move freely without any restrictions.
Loose-fitting clothing is essential to make physical therapy appointments easier for the patient and the PT. Tight clothes make it hard for the therapist to access the areas they need, and since they cling to the body, they can even restrict movement during exercises.
The second consideration is your comfort. Physical therapy can be draining, so feeling comfortable is absolutely necessary. Remember that you will be doing quite a few exercises, so make sure your clothes cover your body well if you don't want unexpected reveals (e.g., the tummy).
Comfort also includes being warm, but as the session progresses, you may get warm, so make sure you wear layers you can put on or take off when needed.
When you're thinking, "what should I wear to physical therapy" ask yourself these questions:
Can I move around easily in these clothes, or is my range of motion restricted?
Is my physical therapist going to be able to access the body parts they need to treat effortlessly?
Am I comfortable in these clothes, and can I exercise and stretch comfortably?
Here are some of the most suitable clothes for physical therapy:
Loose-fitting tank tops, t-shirts
Training pants or shorts with a loose elastic waist
Sporty underwear without wires and other uncomfortable details
Loose hoodies or sweatshirts for warmth
Hair ties to keep the hair out of the way
The last thing to remember when planning what to wear for physical therapy is hygiene.
Always wear freshly washed, clean clothes to all your physical appointments. Yes, this means washing them even after only one visit.
Why? Cleanliness and hygiene are of the highest importance in all treatment facilities. Doctors, staff, and patients should take responsibility for keeping the environment safe and preventing infections from spreading.
This also means not wearing gym clothes unless they're washed or clothes you've worn to doctors or other health appointments.
The best way to ensure this is always to wash your clothes after the therapy appointment, pack a bag to bring them with you when it's time for the next appointment, and change at the office.
Why Is It Important to Wear The Right Clothes to a Physical Therapy Appointment?
When talking about what should you wear to physical therapy, it may seem there are too many factors, and many people ask us whether they all matter. Our answer is always yes because if your wear poorly chosen clothes, it actively prevents your therapist from doing their job to the best of their ability.
For example, if you wear a tight-fitting top for your shoulder's physical therapy, your PT will have a hard top accessing the shoulder itself, hindering them from performing their planned treatments.
Another example could be yoga pants. While they allow for movements, in situations when the therapist needs to examine, e.g., the knee, it isn't easy to roll them up!
What about a comfortable athletic body suit? It might work when you're focusing on exercise, but if your PT needs to give you a massage or examine your lower back, it will be challenging!
That's why choosing loose-fitting, comfortable clothing is your best choice, even if you have a vague idea of your next session's plans. Your physical therapist may have changed them, and it's best to prevent uncomfortable and sometimes awkward situations!
What to Wear to a Physical Therapy Appointment If You Have an Upper Body Injury?
Another way of deciding what to wear to a physical therapy appointment is to base that decision on the body part your therapist will work on.
Think about it like this: if your affected area is in the upper body (neck, shoulders, arms, back), make sure you pay the most attention to that part of your clothing.
The therapist will need access to those body parts, and you will need to be able to move freely. Check if you can lift your arms, whether your neck is exposed so the PT can always see it (no turtlenecks!), and if you can easily lift the t-shirt.
Remember that your therapist might ask you to remove the t-shirt when treating the shoulders, shoulder blades, upper back, or neck. To feel comfortable, women should wear a sports bra or a t-shirt with straps that reveals the shoulders.
Your best fabric choice is cotton or cotton blends, as they’re breathable and stretchy. Lycra or various synthetic fabrics are usually too clingy or tight and might prevent your therapist from examining or working on your affected body parts.
And while your t-shirt and other tops are of the most importance, don't forget to choose loose-fitting training pants or shorts with an elastic waistband. Everything in the body is connected, so your therapist may want to examine your lower back, spine, or pelvis.
What to Wear to a Physical Therapy Appointment If You Have a Lower Body Injury?
Now, let's review the recommended clothing for lower body physical therapy, which includes working on your lower back, hips, legs, and knees. In this case, you want freedom of movement and PT access to these body parts.
While yoga pants might sometimes work for upper body PT, they are not the best choice for lower body therapy as they're hard to roll up and might even hinder your full range of motion.
That's why we recommend wearing loose training pants or shorts. If your therapist is going to work on your hips, your best choice is shorts, as they will allow them full access and will roll up and down easily.
You could also wear loose "hippie pants" if you don't have any sports attire.
What Footwear Should You Wear to a Physical Therapy Appointment?
But what about footwear? Do you wear shoes, slippers, or socks or prepare to work barefoot? As always, comfort is essential, but you'll need to compromise if you're most comfortable in heels.
Do not wear heels, formal shoes, sandals, slip-on shoes, flip-flops, or boots to your physical therapy. These are a recipe for injury and are not suitable for this environment,
The best footwear for your appointments is sneakers with a good grip. So, choose sneakers that support your feet, don't slip, and are easy to take on and off. You also want to wear socks.
During your physical therapy sessions, you will be doing various exercises on the floor, so you want stability and comfort, so you can relax during the exercise and not worry about slipping. Proper footwear is also essential if you have a foot or ankle injury.
If your physical therapist needs to access your feet, they will inform you that you should remove your shoes and/or socks.
What Not to Wear to Physical Therapy Appointment?
Now that you know what to wear for your physical therapy let's briefly talk about what not to wear. This part is almost equally important!
Here's what you should avoid:
Work or formal clothing such as suits, dresses, skirts, blazers, tailored trousers, etc.
Unwashed, previously worn clothing that may have been exposed to bacteria and infections
Boots, heels, dress, open-toed shoes
Hats, caps, scarves
Jewelry such as earrings, necklaces, bracelets
Wearing proper clothing for your physical therapy appointments is essential to ensure smooth and effective sessions. You want your physical therapist to have access to the affected body parts as well as comfort and range of motion for you to perform various exercises.
While there's a range of clothing you can choose based on what you have and prefer, opt for loose-fitting, flexible clothes that suit both of you. Choose sneakers and socks for your feet.
Remember that you want your clothes to be washed freshly and wash them right after the appointment to avoid spreading infections.
It's best to bring a change of clothes to the appointment and change at the clinic.
Looking for physical therapy clinic? The team of board-certified physicians and licensed physical therapists at Miracle Physical Therapy and Massage Center creates a comprehensive plan of care tailored to your specific needs and with total recovery in mind. Get in touch, and let's discuss how we can help!