8 Key Questions to Ask Your Physical Therapist Prior to Treatment

If you’ve never been to orthopedic physical therapy before or you’re starting PT at a new and unfamiliar place, there are some fundamental questions you should ask prior to your first appointment to make sure you will be comfortable at the facility and confident in the care you will be receiving.

1. Who will be providing my care?

Orthopedic physical therapy clinics may employ a number of different types of healthcare professionals, including physical therapists, physical therapist assistants, occupational therapists, occupational therapist assistants, or certified hand therapists. The type of therapist you see will typically depend on your diagnosis.

2. What qualifications and experience do your providers have?

Physical and occupational therapists have advanced degrees and typically pursue continuing education courses throughout their career. In addition, many therapists obtain additional certifications such as:

  • Orthopedic Certified Specialist (OCS)
  • Sports Certified Specialist (SCS)
  • Certified Hand Therapist (CHT)
  • Geriatric Certified Specialist (GCS)
  • Certified Lymphedema Therapist (CLT)
  • Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS)
  • Certified Exercise Expert for Aging Adults (CEEAA)
  • Certified Mechanical Diagnosis and Treatment (CMDT) of the Spine
  • Certified Orthopaedic Manual Therapist (COMT)

These certifications indicate the provider has taken post-graduate courses and passed an examination assuring a minimal competency level in the specific area.

At TOI, many of our therapists have these or other certifications. They also specialize in areas such as vestibular rehabilitation, balance and fall prevention, aquatic therapy, cranial sacral therapy, myofascial release, functional rehabilitation, kinesio taping, trigger point dry needling, instrumented soft tissue mobilization, movement analysis, and manual therapy.

3. Will I see the same physical or occupational therapist each time?

To build rapport and trust with your provider and ensure consistency of care, it is important for the same provider to treat you or supervise your care at each session. There may be times you are treated by a physical or occupational therapist assistant (PTA/OTA), but they are always overseen by the primary PT or OT and will follow the established treatment plan.

4. How many therapy sessions will I need and how long will they be?

This will depend on your diagnosis and compliance with your treatment plan. Your therapist will discuss a treatment plan with you in detail at the initial consultation.

5. What will a typical therapy session entail?

Your first PT visit includes a comprehensive evaluation. You will describe your medical history, your current problems and level of pain, what aggravates and eases your problem, how your pain or lack of mobility impacts or limits your daily activities, and what your goals are for physical therapy.

Your therapist will perform a physical evaluation including palpation, range of motion testing, muscle testing, neurological screening, and perhaps other tests to confirm or rule out other problems. He or she will then create a treatment plan with your input and explain what you can expect from each visit.

This typically includes therapeutic exercise (range of motion, strengthening, stretching) and functional training, as well as hands-on care, manual therapy, joint mobilization, modalities (heat, ice, ultrasound, electrical stimulation, and more), and reviewing your home exercise program.

Depending on your diagnosis, your rehab may also include aquatic therapy, vestibular therapy to treat dizziness, balance and gait training, sport-specific exercise, or other treatment to address your specific problem(s).

6. Will physical therapy be painful?

People are referred to physical therapy for pain relief or to improve mobility. Your therapist will devise a treatment plan to address your specific complaints and goals for therapy. In some cases PT may be painful, especially after surgery. If you do experience pain during your therapy sessions, it is important to communicate this to your therapist, noting the intensity, frequency, and duration of pain. Your therapist will then adjust your treatment plan to work around or through the pain.

7. Do you accept my insurance?

This will typically dictate which physical therapy facility you can visit. Be sure the facility clarifies your insurance coverage prior to scheduling your initial appointment.

8. What are your hours of operation?

Convenience is key to ensuring you attend all your therapy sessions. Make sure your PT provider offers hours that are compatible with your schedule. Many offer early morning or evening hours to accommodate working patients.

Tuscon Orthopaedic Institute offers physical and occupational therapy in two convenient locations. Collectively, our therapists have over 220 years of combined orthopaedic rehabilitation experience. Learn more about the orthopedic rehabilitation services we provide and our highly qualified therapists, then call us to schedule your appointment.