Insight Comprehensive Therapy – From managing chronic pain to recovering from an injury or surgery, doctors often encourage patients to consider physical therapy. A customized physical therapy plan can help patients in many ways, including reducing or eliminating pain, improving mobility and overall health, and even preventing surgery. Physical therapy is even supported by the CDC, which cites it as an important factor in gaining mobility and stability while managing pain without high-dose prescription medications.
If your healthcare provider has recommended physical therapy, or if you are considering making your first appointment to help relieve physical pain, increase mobility, or address a functional issue, you probably have questions about what you can expect. The following are ten tips to consider before your first appointment to help you get the most out of your experience and make your efforts a success. 

Plan Ahead
For many people, one of the most daunting parts of visiting a new healthcare professional is what precedes the appointment. To ensure there aren’t any delays, prepare all paperwork ahead of time and come prepared with additional information you may need, including health insurance cards, referral paperwork, medical records, and imaging results. You should also bring a list of medications and supplements you are currently taking.
It is always advisable to arrive about 15 minutes before your scheduled appointment. Use this time to address any check-in protocols, ask questions, complete additional paperwork, and relax before your scheduled start time. 

Think About Your Symptoms
Before your initial appointment, it is also important to review your symptoms so you don’t forget any important facts. Make detailed notes about the history of your problem, prior treatments, and your healthcare experience so far. As you think about your symptoms, consider:

  • How your problems began
  • Your prior mobility levels
  • When or how often you experience symptoms 
  • What relieves or worsens symptoms 

Set Goals
Setting goals is an important part of the physical therapy process. Patients who have a guideline for success are more likely to achieve results from their physical therapy program. Before your first appointment, think about what you want to get out of your efforts, including timeframes and goals. This will give your physical therapist a clearer understanding of your expectations and assist them with developing a realistic and attainable plan. It is important to remember that physical therapy takes time and effort on your part. Goals are not set in stone and can be adapted based on your progress. 

Wear Comfortable Clothing
Be prepared for a lot of movement during your first physical therapy session. Although clothing recommendations may vary based on the type of treatment you are receiving, comfort is key. Ensure you can move freely in what you are wearing and that it does not impede access to the part(s) of your body you will be working on.
Some common clothing items you may choose to wear include clothes designed for working out (e.g. t-shirts, yoga pants, gym shorts). Athletic shoes are also recommended. Tight clothing, dress/work clothing, dress shoes, and jewelry should all be avoided. If you are unsure what to wear for your first appointment, contact your physical therapist’s office. 

Ask Questions
Maintaining an open line of communication between you and your physical therapist is another important aspect of achieving success. Asking questions gives you the opportunity to learn more about your condition, what you can expect, and how you can get the best results.

As you prepare for your first visit, think about what you would like to ask. Some important questions to consider include:

  • What type of physical therapy will be provided? 
  • When can I expect to see results? 
  • Will I be working with the same physical therapist on each visit? 
  • Should I expect pain or discomfort?
  • How much time should I devote to therapy? 

Take Notes
First visits for many people can be an information overload. Even if you’re engaged and listening carefully, it’s hard to remember everything you hear without taking notes. During each appointment, take a moment to write down important information on your treatment, next steps, and any other key details you should remember. 

Prepare For Homework
Although much of your work will be done during your scheduled appointments, this is often not enough for most patients to make a full recovery. Be prepared to perform exercises at home between visits. Your physical therapist will thoroughly explain how they would like you to exercise and what you should be prioritizing. In order to stay on track, block time on your calendar to perform your exercises. Depending on the treatment plan, you may be able to integrate your at home therapy with your regular daily activities. Be sure to convey any progress or pain you experienced at your next office visit. 

Don’t Overdo It
When you’re making progress, it can be tempting to push yourself even harder. However, it is important to understand your limitations. Discomfort is acceptable, but pain is not — and each person’s threshold for pain tolerance is different. In some cases, surpassing your limits can lead to injuries or even long term damage. Physical therapy offices should be a safe space for healing, and your recovery is heavily dependent on your strength and mobility. As you work with your physical therapist, be open to challenges but communicate how you’re feeling. By letting them know when you have concerns, they can quickly adapt to address your specific needs.  

Identify Next Steps
After your initial appointment, you should have a clear understanding of your treatment plan and what it will take for you to see progress. In addition to your goals, your physical therapist may also recommend other therapeutic modalities. Most patients achieve success working with a multidisciplinary team that consists of your primary care physician, physical therapist, and other specialists, such as dietitians and occupational therapists. Also be proactive about scheduling future appointments and be aware of your responsibilities and expectations. Teamwork is essential to your success. 

Celebrate Achievements
It’s easy to dwell on setbacks or disappointments and minimize progress when we’re in pain or suffering. However, having the capacity to remain positive and open-minded will play a significant role in your success during physical therapy. As you begin, don’t let your smaller successes go unnoticed – even if they are the foundation of a larger accomplishment. Our bodies react to good feelings, which is why taking a moment to identify progress in any form goes a long way in helping us achieve our goals.   

Your first physical therapy appointment doesn’t have to be overwhelming. By following these tips, not only will you be prepared, but you will also have the resources to make the most out of your time with your physical therapist and ensure you have a positive experience. For more information about physical therapy services at Insight Comprehensive Therapy or to schedule an appointment, contact us today.