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Get the Most Out of Physical Therapy

Five Tips to Make Your Physical Therapy Experience Better


Updated October 28, 2011

While not all physical therapy experiences are the same, some general rules apply to ensure that your experience will be a positive one. Whether you have your therapy treatment in a clinic, a hospital, or at home, following some general guidelines can help you get the most out of physical therapy.

1. Arrive on Time for All Appointments

Physical therapists usually run on a pretty tight schedule. We want to spend as much time as we can with our patients to ensure that they receive the best possible care. Arrive on time to your appointment to get the best care and attention possible. If you are going to be late, call ahead and ask if the therapist can still see you or if it would be better to reschedule.

2. Wear Comfortable Clothing

Rolling up the legs of your jeans is tough to do, and it makes the examination of a painful knee difficult. Long sleeved shirts get in the way of a shoulder examination. Skirts make exercising almost impossible. Before going to therapy, plan ahead and choose the best clothing to wear. If you are unsure, call ahead and ask what clothing would be best suited for your specific condition. Many clinics have changing rooms so you can get out of your work clothes and into your exercise clothes. Also, wear or bring comfortable shoes. Exercises for hips, knees and shoulders often require that you hold weights. Wearing sandals (or no shoes at all) could put your toes at risk for fracture if a weight were to fall on them.

If you are receiving physical therapy in a hospital and are wearing a hospital gown with the opening in the back, be sure to tie it up. You may also want to put on a second gown with the opening in the front to make sure you stay modestly covered up.

3. Ask Questions About Your Condition and Treatment

As a patient, you should not simply follow the orders of your therapist. Rather, have an open dialogue with your therapist about what is to be done and what to expect. Think of your relationship with your physical therapist as a therapeutic alliance. Both you and your therapist should be working together to help you move and feel better.

4. Perform Your Home Exercise Program as Directed

Usually in physical therapy you may be required to perform an exercise program at home (or on your own in your room if you are receiving physical therapy in the hospital). It is essential that you do your best to perform the exercises prescribed by your physical therapist. If, for some reason, you cannot do the exercises, tell your therapist. Taking responsibility for your condition and engaging in a self-care exercise program can help you return to optimal function quickly.

5. Work Hard

Occasionally after injury, illness, or surgery you need to work hard to regain normal mobility. Your physical therapist won’t expect every patient to get better and dance out of the clinic or hospital. Your physical therapist will expect that you work hard and try your best.

By following some simple rules in physical therapy, you can be sure that you have a positive experience. Plus, you can feel good about working hard to decrease and eliminate your pain and improve your functional mobility. If you are unsure of what is expected, be sure to ask your physical therapist.

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