What to Expect at a Physical Therapy Visit

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At your first physical therapy visit, your physical therapist will review your medical history and do a physical evaluation. Depending on your diagnosis, your therapist may evaluate your flexibility, strength, balance, coordination, posture, and/or heart rate and respiration. Your therapist may look at how you walk or get up from lying down (functional activities), along with how you use and position your body as you perform activities (body mechanics). The therapist will work with you to determine your goals for physical therapy and to begin planning your treatment. You may or may not begin your actual therapy at the first visit.

Generally, the first goal of treatment is to decrease any pain and swelling you may have. The next step is to increase your flexibility, and then increase your strength and endurance. As with any exercise, you may have mild soreness or swelling as a result of treatment, and these should be noted by your therapist. Your therapist will monitor your reaction to treatment (for example, if you have swelling or become out of breath) and will adjust your treatment as needed. This ongoing assessment and adjustment means the risk of any injury or complication from physical therapy is very low.

Your physical therapist will evaluate your need for special equipment such as particular footwear, splints, or crutches. If you need equipment, your therapist can help you determine what to get and either get it for you or tell you where you can find it.

In most cases, part of your physical therapy will be education. Your therapist may instruct you in a home exercise program, proper body mechanics, and use of any special equipment you may need. He or she will then periodically assess how well you are transferring the skills you learn in therapy to your daily life.

Your physical therapist will continually reassess your progress toward your treatment goals and will work with you and your other health professionals to plan for your discharge from physical therapy.

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