What Is Physical Therapy?

What is physical therapy?  Are you trainers?  Is massage all you do?  These are all questions that I get when I tell people I am a physical therapist.  Unless you have been to physical therapy people often have no idea what physical therapy is and what a physical therapy visit should be like.  I figure a good place to start my blog posts is to answer some questions people have regarding physical therapy.

What is physical therapy? 

According to Marriam Webster physical therapy is the treatment of disease, injury or disability through physical and mechanical means.  This does little to describe who we are and what we do.  According to the American Physical Therapy Association physical therapists are highly educated, licensed health care professionals that help reduce pain, restore mobility and help patients return to their chosen activities. 

In many cases we will help you recover without the need for surgery or the use of long term medications.  The treatments we use may involve passive modalities such as hot packs, massage, electric stimulation or ice.  They will also likely involve movement-based treatments to improve your strength and mobility.  A home exercise program is also a key component to help you take control of your problem and eventually be able to work on it on your own.

When would I need a physical therapist?

Pain is the most common reason for seeing a PT.  Be it back pain, knee pain, or shoulder pain a physical therapist can help you figure out why you are having pain and help get you on a plan to alleviate your symptoms.  Following surgery physical therapists can help you return to your pre surgery activities.  Functional limitations are another reason for seeking PT services, limited mobility or loss of strength are common limitations.  Wellness screening or injury risk screening can help identify risk factors for injury and if addressed properly may reduce the likelihood for future injury.

How do I get in to see a physical therapist?

Massachusetts is a direct access state, which means you do not need a physician referral to see a PT.  However most insurance carriers do require a doctor’s prescription to reimburse for physical therapy.  So in most cases you will need to see your doctor (either PCP or orthopedist) prior to seeing a PT.  Once you have seen your doctor and they have referred you to therapy you can call and make an appointment.  Be sure to have your insurance card handy along with some basic information so the receptionist can get you started.

What should I expect at my first therapy visit?

You should bring in the prescription from the doctor, your insurance card and your driver’s license to your first visit along with any paper work your therapist may have sent to you to fill out ahead of time.  The receptionist will check you in, expect it to take a little time to set up your account, get your appointments set and review any co-pays, co-insurance or deductibles which you may be responsible (you can always call your insurance carrier ahead of time to check on this yourself).  It is always a good idea to show up 10-15 minutes early for that first appointment to take care of these administrative tasks. 

Once you are checked in you will meet with your PT who will take your history and take you through an examination.  From there you will together figure out a plan to help reduce your symptoms and help you meet your individual goals.  Often times follow up visits will be required which can range from only a few visits to several weeks of therapy depending on the many factors including severity of symptoms, how chronic your problem is or post operative protocols.  You should be clear by the end of your first visit what the plan is and what the expectations are. 

At Complete Game Physical Therapy in Tewksbury, MA we treat every athlete as an individual and every individual as an athlete.  We work with everyone from elementary school children to active senior citizens with the personalized, evidence based approach you deserve.  Whether it’s getting back on the field or back to activities of daily living we will give you the highest quality of care to help you meet your goals.