Selecting a physical therapist to help you recover from an injury or surgery is an important decision. You need a provider who is aligned with your recovery goals and who has the necessary skills and equipment to help you achieve them. You’ll also be spending a lot of time with your therapist, so you want to avoid personality conflicts and ensure that you are comfortable in the clinic environment. When researching your options, ask your doctor, friends, and family for recommendations and take the time to meet with providers before you commit. As you evaluate physical therapists, both during the selection process and throughout your recovery, look for these qualities:
As with any type of medical professional, you want to feel comfortable with your physical therapist. This of course means that you should feel safe, but you also want to be able to relax during your sessions. Look for a provider who develops a good rapport with you and makes you feel at ease while discussing your treatment options. You should always feel confident that you can ask questions about your treatment and expect thorough, respectful answers.
Like other types of healthcare providers, physical therapists have various specialties, and you want to be sure that they align with your needs. For example, if you are recovering from shoulder surgery, look for an expert in shoulder rehabilitation. If you are an athlete, work with a provider who specializes in recovery from sports injuries so you also learn how to prevent future injuries. Ask potential providers about their previous experience with your type of injury, and narrow your search to those who have the most expertise.
In addition to checking physical therapists’ credentials, read their online patient reviews. Look for comments about the experience in the clinic, customization of treatments, and whether patients achieved the results they were expecting. Some providers also have testimonials from previous patients and may be able to provide you with references to contact.
Ask potential providers what they would specifically do to treat your injury. The answer should take your current health and lifestyle into consideration. For example, the treatment approaches are different for an athlete trying to return to competition after ACL surgery versus a patient recovering from a knee replacement to reduce pain associated with arthritis. Both situations involve recovery from knee surgery, but the patient profiles are quite different.
Ask therapists about the types of equipment they have available and what they would recommend in your case. Look for solutions such as cryotherapy, rapid contrast therapy, TENS, and ultrasound to help reduce pain and aid in the healing process. It’s also important to remember that physical therapy continues outside of the clinic. Find out whether they offer equipment rental for home use so you can continue to get treatments between appointments.
After you have started treatment, you should be continually progressing toward your goals. A good physical therapist will work closely with you to define those goals, set milestones, and measure against them. The specific objectives will depend on your injury, but they could include metrics such as increased range of motion by a certain percentage, improved strength in certain muscle groups, or achievement of a desired level of flexibility.
Encouraging and Accountable
Good physical therapists know that the recovery process requires teamwork. They are responsible for providing appropriate and effective treatment solutions, and patients must participate by following recommendations for treatments and exercises between sessions. Because of this, a good physical therapist should provide the encouragement necessary to keep you engaged and push you to the next level. You want a therapist who is just as invested in your recovery as you are. If you’re not seeing this quality in the provider you have selected, it might be time to consider other options.