7 Things to Expect at your First Physical Therapy Appointment

What to Expect:

Your first physical therapy appointment is another step on your road to recovery, and with everything new, it’s nice to travel a road you’re at least somewhat familiar with.

1. Paperwork! (Yeah, we know)

We know it can be frustrating to fill out so much paperwork.  We promise that extra information helps us to better help you.  So thanks in advance!

2.  Assessment of the problem

Even though your very talented physician said that the pain you’re experiencing originates in your shoulder, we just want to confirm the findings. And 95% of the time, we agree with your doctor’s assessment, but the assessment exists for the other 5% of the time. We want to be sure we are treating the origin of the pain. For example, some shoulder pain can originate in your neck instead of the obvious place: your shoulder.

3.  Measurements!

Get ready for measurements: motion measurements, strength measurements, other measurements.

This is really a part of the assessment.  We’ll look at your range of motion and check to see how strong you are, given your injury.

4.  A discussion about anatomy and physiology

You may be thinking “Hurry up and make me better already!”  Oh, just wait.  We will. We will!

But before we prepare you to run a marathon, we want to make sure you understand why your body is in pain/not functioning as it should.

So be ready for a lesson in anatomy and physiology.  We’ll follow that up with a plan of action.  What do you want to be able to do?  Lift a small car?  Maybe more realistically, lift a small child, or get back to running, cooking, dancing, etc.

5. Get your homework…er…home exercise list

Many people who attend therapy often don’t realize that home exercises are an integral part of their physical therapy.

Your physical therapist needs to make sure that you can perform the exercises correctly at home.  What good is therapy if you can’t do the required movements at home?

A lot of times people go to the first appointment in jeans, which is okay depending on your therapist.  However, it’s best to arrive in athletic wear/comfortable clothing that you can move in–especially since your therapist will try to have you complete a few of each home exercise.

6.  Clearing up misconceptions (no you won’t be leaping over buildings next week)

Many people arrive at therapy and look around at other people in the room.  Doing that tends to make people ask questions like “why can’t I move like that yet?” or “we had surgery the same day, but he doesn’t seem to be in as much pain as me.  Why not?”

A few thoughts on expectations:

  • They tend to occur because people compare themselves unfairly to others.  Don’t do it.  Your body may respond better or worse than someone else’s body.
  • They can cause people to become dejected.  If you expect to be better after surgery right away, you’re going to be disappointed (depending on the surgery), so take it slow and listen to your therapist’s expectations.
  • Sometimes, people expect to be down and out for quite some time.  That’s also not always the case.  You may be up and moving sooner than you expect.
  • Listen to your therapist’s assessment and then grill them with all of your questions.  That usually solves the misconception problem.

7.  Support – We Get You!

Your therapist wants to support you.  They want you to get back to the lifestyle you want.  Many therapists have also experienced an accident or surgery that landed them in therapy, so they’ve been through it themselves, and they help dozens of people each day to move one step closer to being healed.

Talk to them.  They’ll hear you out.  Therapists are pretty good listeners after all.

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