What is Physical Therapy? Why Would I Need a Physical Therapist?

Physical Therapist
Physical therapy is a series of treatments ordered by your physician to restore health to patients who have lost mobility due to illness or injury. Treatment provides specific targeted therapy that will include exercises to reduce the patient’s functional limitation and to improve endurance, strength and flexibility. Physical therapists use passive motion machines (which lift the extremity for you), active exercise machines, massage therapy, electrical stimulation and more. Many physical therapy centers also provide occupational and speech therapy.

Patients who have had open heart surgery, hip or knee replacement or a stroke typically benefit from physical therapy. Sports medicine, a growing segment of physical therapy providers, focuses on treatments to prevent or alleviate injuries occurring from exercise or sports.

Patients can receive physical therapy in many settings from clinics to the comfort of their home. A physician will recommend an appropriate setting depending on a patient’s needs and condition.

How do you choose the best physical therapist?

With over 20,000 physical therapy offices nationwide, choosing the right one can be overwhelming. The key is to research your choices so you find a physical therapist that fits your needs and provides quality care. Below is a list of factors to consider when selecting physical therapy:

1. Location: Physical therapy can be conducted in many settings, from clinics and offices, inpatient rehabilitation facilities, to private homes. Speak with your physician; he will recommend an appropriate setting depending on your needs and condition. Physical therapy can often be conducted several times a week, so if you are commuting to your physical therapy sessions, you should pick a location close to your home or work. If you decide upon an inpatient rehabilitation center, be sure to choose a location close to family and friends. Patients do better when they are supported by family and friends.

2. Insurance: Select a physical therapist that accepts your insurance.

3. Specialty: Verify the physical therapist specializes in the care you need. (Also verify the PT cares for the age group of the patient, as some specialize in a specific group like peds or seniors).

4. License: Verify the physical therapist is licensed. Licenses are regulated by each state individually. Physical therapy can be administered by the physical therapist (PT) or a physical therapist assistant (PTA) under the PT's direction.

5. Quality: Does the physical therapist (and PTAs) provide quality care? Quality is an important factor, as you need skilled and compassionate healthcare professionals to lead you on road to recovery.

6. Equipment: Make sure the office is well-equipped, as machines & equipment can vary from place to place. Ask if it's possible to take a tour of the PT office to check it out.

7. Availability: Days and hours can vary between places. Make sure to select a PT that fits your schedule.

8. Recommendations: Ask your family and friends if they have any recommendations for PTs. Word of mouth recommendations can help you sort out the good providers from the bad.

9. Reviews: Look for online reviews. They are usually full of advice. You'll get a better picture of office staff, billing, personality of the doctor, wait times, and much more.