Even if you have never had chronic pain or been prescribed pain medication, physical therapy can help relieve discomfort from an injury, illness or surgery, as well as make you stronger, more flexible, and less likely to experience an injury in the future.
Who can see a physical therapist?
Here in North Carolina, you can self-refer for physical therapy, meaning you can call a local physical therapy clinic and make an appointment without a referral from a health care provider. Many private clinics accept appointments from self-referred patients. However, if you are on Medicare, you will need a doctor, nurse practitioner or physician assistant to refer you for physical therapy.
What to expect at your first physical therapy session
A physical therapist is a professional trained in detecting, treating and restoring appropriate body alignment and symmetry, managing pain and providing best-practice skills to improve your health and prevent future problems from your illness or injury.
Skilled physical therapists have a broad knowledge base, so you should expect a professional, thorough and objective evaluation with a clear summary of your therapy-related issues, a plan for solving these issues, a review of your care plan and realistic timeframes for accomplishing your goals.
What to expect during physical therapy
During your appointments, you can expect focused stretches, exercises and possibly manual mobilizations — where your physical therapist assists you in moving or stretching — to restore the appropriate joint function.
Your PT may use heat, ice, compression and/or electric stimulation therapy in conjunction with exercises or stretches. He or she will educate you on why you need to complete each exercise and how it is helping you. Your physical therapist will also review which exercises you will need to perform on your own at home.
How to make the most of physical therapy
Ask questions. If you have any questions, write them down and bring them with you to your appointments. This will help your physical therapist address your unique needs and concerns.
Bring a friend. If you have trouble with your memory, bring a spouse, family member or friend with you to help you keep track of what you need to do at home.
Find out if you can use the clinic’s facilities. Ask if your clinic will allow you to arrive early to warm up and stretch, or if the clinic will allow you to use its equipment on your non-therapy days.
Share your goals with your therapist. If you want to be able to complete your favorite hike or play with your grandkids, tell your physical therapist. He or she can integrate your goals into your care plan.
Do your homework. If your therapist prescribes exercises for you to complete at home, be sure you do them. They will maximize your good results and help you make faster progress.
Be present. You will get more out of each physical therapy appointment if you give it your best effort. Complete all the repetitions your physical therapist asks you to do. You will get out of physical therapy what you put into it.
Learn more about Pardee Physical Therapy at pardeehospital.org.