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What to Expect during your first Physical Therapy Appointment

Paige Tretter, DPT

You’ve seen your OSC Orthopaedist or Pain Management Specialist and now you have a script for Physical Therapy.  If you’ve never been to Physical Therapy, you may only know what you’ve been told by your physician, a friend or family member.  You may not understand why you have two to three appointments per week for several weeks, and how these visits are a good use of your time.  You really don’t understand how doing some exercises and getting a “massage” can help you to feel better.  That’s why I am here to help – I want to give you the information you need to get the most from your first, and maybe, most important visit, to Physical Therapy.

Expect to be asked questions – On your first visit, your Physical Therapist will perform an evaluation, including a history of your injury and a physical examination. An example of some of the questions that you may be asked include:

  • What body part(s) hurt and when?  When did the pain start?
  • When do you feel better or worse?
  • What is your pain level? What type of pain are you experiencing?
  • What hobbies do you have that this injury is preventing you from enjoying?
  • What is your pain or dysfunction keeping you from doing that you want to do?

Your Physical Therapist will develop a goal-oriented plan just for you and your lifestyle, so that you can achieve the positive outcome you want from treatment.

Expect to be Touched – Physical Therapy is a hands-on method of musculoskeletal treatment.  Your therapist is a highly-skilled medical professional who often will use their hands as treatment tools.  Manual manipulation, soft tissue mobilization, trigger point release, and other modalities will be used to help you feel better, which may require touching the body and the affected body part.

Expect to Move – We ask our patients to come to PT in unrestrictive clothing and supportive shoes.  Why?  Because we expect you to be an active participant in your treatment plan, which requires that you move.  Whether you are using a particular exercise machine, using a resistance band or doing exercises on a balance ball, you’ll actively move for the majority of your treatment time.

Expect Some Discomfort – Physical Therapy isn’t a trip to the spa, although some of the treatment methods we employ may feel wonderful, such as hot packs or tissue manipulation.  Often times, we ask our patients to move in a certain way or complete an exercise that causes pain.  While it may seem counter-intuitive, these exercises are designed to help your body get stronger, more flexible and more functional.  We may also use a modality, such as dry needling, to relieve muscle spasms and tension.  Treatments, such as this, can cause momentary stinging during treatment and mild soreness afterwards; however, over time, this discomfort will decrease and give way to better movement.

Expect to Sweat – Patients who’ve had surgery, an injury or illness oftentimes are deconditioned and have less than optimal physical fitness.  Doing exercises while in Physical Therapy may cause you to breathe heavily and break a sweat as your body becomes accustomed to a more active intensity.  We encourage our patients to provide their best efforts when completing their exercises. Sweating is likely a good indication you are working hard toward your recovery.

Expect a Positive Outcome – Even though you may wonder if you’ll ever see an improvement while doing your umpteenth leg raise or bicep curl, trust us.  Patients often tell us they can’t believe how Physical Therapy truly changed their lives for the better and that recovery does come after they put in the work. Sometimes, exercise is medicine.  No matter what your condition before you come to Physical Therapy, your body is a wonderful creation that was made to move.  You will be amazed at how it responds to exercise, a willingness to try and an optimistic attitude! We can’t wait to meet and work with you!

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