What to expect from your first pt visit

Kerri Laurenza, SPT

If you’ve sustained an injury, illness or developed pain that hinders your daily activities or movement, you may benefit from physical therapy services. Knowing what to expect from your first physical therapy visit can make your experience more valuable as you begin your treatments.

Let’s go over a few of the specific questions you may have prior to your initial visit:

How should I prepare for my first PT visit?

Arrive to your initial evaluation 15 minutes early as you will need to fill out some paperwork regarding past and present medical history. Prior to your visit, make a list of questions and/or concerns you may have for your therapist. This may include:

  • What should I expect during my physical therapy sessions?
  • Are there any activities I should temporarily stop participating in?
  • Is it normal to have soreness following a treatment session?
  • What should I be doing at home to promote recovery?

Wear comfortable clothes to your appointment. Be sure you can to move and perform some light exercise, if able. Additionally, your therapist may want to examine the area so wear something that will allow easy exposure, but keep in mind, you will typically be in a private room. If you are using an assistive device, brace, or orthotic, bring them. Think of a few goals you may have. What would you like to get out of your treatment sessions?

Providing this information to your therapist will allow them to tailor your treatment specifically to you. Remember, both you and your therapist have the same end goal: for you to move and feel at your best.

How does the evaluation go?

Every therapist has a unique set of skills; therefore, every evaluation varies. Typically, your therapist will begin by asking a series of questions relative to your impairments such as: mechanism of injury/ illness, past medical history, prior treatments (if any), what activities you may be having difficulty with, and how your injury/ illness has evolved overtime. Communicate with your therapist any and all concerns you may have regarding the reason for your visit. Typically, most evaluations will include:

  • Palpation
  • Range of motion testing
  • Strength testing
  • Neurologic screening
  • Functional strength and mobility assessment
  • Balance
  • Gait assessment
  • Education

These assessments allow the therapist to create a treatment plan aimed to improve your specific impairments. During the evaluation, you may wonder why your therapist is examining your back when you came in with a hip injury. Physical therapists perform a comprehensive examination, which may include areas of your body you thought were unrelated to your injury. To restore optimal movement, multiple areas of your body have to communicate and work together. Keep in mind, an injury in one area of the body may also refer, or ‘move’ to another area.

Will I start treatment on day one?

Yes, you should expect to start your treatment on the day of your evaluation. As well as assess your impairments, your therapist will introduce you to a few exercises during your first appointment. These exercises may become part of your weekly activities to supplement your therapy sessions. They may incorporate therapeutic modalities, such as e-stim, ultra sound, heat or ice.

The primary purpose of these treatments is to assist with pain management so you can begin the recovery process. Treatment during your evaluation will also include education. In addition to teaching you exercises, your therapist may teach you new techniques to use when performing every day activities to decrease pain, avoid injury, and promote recovery. Education is the key to maintenance and injury prevention in the future.

Knowing what to expect from your first physical therapy visit is important; your therapist will give you all the information you need to understand what they are looking for and what they recommend. For additional information, contact our physical therapy clinics in Malta – Saratoga Springs at 518-289-5242 , or Queensbury – Glens Falls at 518-289-5242.