When Should You Consult A Physical Therapist?
If you have been suffering with pain, injury, degenerative conditions, pre or post-surgical issues, or have suffered a trauma or sports injury, then you may be a candidate for physical therapy. Many patients include people with degenerative conditions such as lower back pain and neck pain, arthritis and sports-related injuries, or who have been victims of motor vehicle or work-related accidents.
What sorts of acute injuries require physical therapy for recovery?
After any acute injury, it is important to first consult with your physician before seeing a physical therapist. Many of the acute injuries seen by physical therapists are ligament sprains (i.e. ankle sprain), muscle strains (i.e. hamstring strain), or inflammation in a tendon (i.e. achilles tendonitis). These types of acute injuries can occur in patients of any age and activity level. Back pain is another common complaint warranting a physical therapy referral. An acute onset of back pain can be precipitated by variety of activities, and its cause may be due to multiple factors. Back pain can be caused by an injury to a back muscle, ligament, vertebral disk, or to the vertebral bone itself. Therefore, seeing a doctor after any acute injury is always recommended to ensure the injury has been identified correctly so it can be treated most effectively.
Do I need to see my doctor before seeing a physical therapist?
It is advisable to see your doctor if you have any new or recurrent medical concerns. However, under the Public Laws of New Jersey, in most cases a referral will not be required to start your Physical Therapy care. You can have your injuries evaluated and treated immediately by a NJ licensed Physical Therapist. Physical therapists are trained to look out for the possibility of symptoms originating from a disease process outside of a musculoskeletal origin. If there is any doubt, the physical therapist will refer you back to your physician or to a specialist for further examination and testing.
What do I need to bring with me?
Make sure you bring your physical therapy referral (provided to you by your doctor) and your payment information. If your insurance is covering the cost of physical therapy, bring your insurance card. If you are covered by Workers' Compensation, bring your claim number and your case manager's contact information. If you are covered by auto insurance or an attorney lien, make sure you bring this information.
How should I dress?
You should wear loose fitting clothing so you can expose the area that we will be evaluating and treating.
What should I expect during my first visit?
Your first physical therapy visit is generally broken down into three parts: History, examination, and evaluation.
1) During the first portion of your initial evaluation, the physical therapist will take a thorough history of your current condition (i.e., what caused your current complaint, what makes the pain better/worse, what functions in daily life are most impaired), your past medical and surgical history, any medications you are taking, and the results of any previous medical testing you have undergone. The physical therapist will also ask what you hope to achieve from physical therapy; each patient’s goals are subjective, and your treatment should be centered on the activities to which you want to return.
2) The second portion of the initial visit, or the examination, will consist of the physical therapist taking objective measurements specific to the area of injury. These tests will assess your range of motion, strength, balance, and integrity of ligaments, nerves and other structures.
3) The final portion of the initial visit is the evaluation. This entails the physical therapist compiling the subjective (history) and objective (examination) findings and coming to a clinical physical therapy diagnosis of the cause of your symptoms. From this conclusion, the physical therapist will determine your plan of care and the interventions necessary to achieve your short-term and long-term rehabilitation goals. This includes how many times you should see the therapist per week, how many weeks you will need therapy, home programs, patient education, short-term/long-term goals, and what is expected after discharge from therapy. This plan is created with input from you, your therapist, and your doctor.
How many visits will I need?
This is highly variable. You may need one visit or you may need months of care. It depends on your diagnosis, the severity of your impairments, your past medical history, etc. You will be re-evaluated on a monthly basis and when you see your doctor, we will provide you with a progress report with our recommendations.