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6 Points to Ponder when Picking your PT

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Thinking Guy

When going to any medical appointment, you are trading your time and money (copay or deductible) in the belief that the interaction will help you to get better. Whether you have pain, an illness, or loss of function, the medical appointment should lead you down the right path towards recovery. This could be in the form of medication, a surgery, a diagnostic test, or an exercise session. I have had a number of patients tell me that they have “never seen Physical Therapy like this before” when they come to 3DPT, which made me ask about what their previous experiences were in Physical Therapy. Below are 6 key questions to ask when scheduling your first Physical Therapy visit and think about on each follow up visit to make sure that you are trading your time and your money for the best services to get you back to full function.

How many visits do your Physical Therapists see per hour?

Each Physical Therapy visit may overlap with another patient. When you have more than two patients per hour, the PT is not able to effectively watch your form during exercise and make recommendations to improve the effectiveness of the exercise. She or he is not able to provide the hands on joint mobilizations, Graston, Active release, or other manual techniques that are paramount to improving the tightness in muscles and joints to make the exercises that much more effective. When you ask this question, the answer should not be more than two patients per hour. If you begin treatment and notice that the visits per hour is more than you were initially told, question your PT for a different time of day that may work better, or consider changing companies entirely.

Do you work with the same PT each visit?

Your physical therapy experience should be about your relationship with the therapist and their knowledge about how the body works. All graduating Physical Therapists have a Doctorate degree now. This requires an undergraduate degree in addition to 2-3 years of schooling to obtain their Doctorate.

When you see a physician, you make a connection with that physician. You believe that physician will get you better, and you see the same physician on follow up visits because she or he knows you, your case, and what they have tried before that has worked or not worked. I believe this relationship is even more important with your Physical Therapist. You will see your PT anywhere from 1-3 times per week, and they should be doing some kind of hands on intervention each session. It is imperative that they know you and you know them since it is a more intimate relationship than you will have with the physician. If you are seeing a different PT each visit, the hands on technique may be different, the treatment philosophy may be different, and it may take longer or inhbit your recovery because the person doesn’t know you. There is a difference between the PT knowing your diagnosis and knowing you as an individual. There are some treatment protocols out there for people after surgeries, but every individual is different. It matters for your recovery if the therapist knows your goal is to lift your grandchildren, run a 5K, or sit while at work without pain. The same PT will get to you know and the “why” we are working with you.

Will my session be with the PT or with an assistant or aide?

Physical Therapists know the body and know movement inside and out, and they designed your treatment plan after performing your initial evaluation. When you are doing your exercises in the treatment sessions, the movements that the PT selected are for a reason. They are designed to improve strength, flexibility, control, etc. It really matters if your arm is at a 90 degree angle versus a 70 degree angle for activities, and you want a Doctor of Physical Therapy or other movement expert to be the one supervising your exercises to make sure the exercise is being performed the correct way. Physical Therapist Assistants work closely with the PT and are also experts in exercises and hands on interventions. There are excellent teams of PTs and PTAs who work hand in hand to get their patients better.

In the State of New Jersey, a Physical Therapy aide is not permitted to make recommendations on correcting form and/or instructing patients in how to do an exercise. You are trading your time and money for a PT visit, and you should ask that a movement specialist is the one making sure you are maximizing your session.

What continuing education has your PT taken?

Physical Therapists are required to complete 30 hours of continuing education courses every two years. Some PTs take the minimum just to remain licensed, and others shatter the required amount year after year because of their thirst for knowledge. PTs can specialize in treating different conditions based on their continuing education. You want someone working with you who has completed advanced coursework or certifications in a treatment that will help you, not someone who passed their licensure exam years ago, and now just takes the minimum to get by.

Click here to find a board certified Physical Therapy specialist in your area.

3dpt Pediatric Physical Therapy

Is your treatment being progressed towards your goals?

As I said before, each patient is different. Two people with the same diagnosis may be trying to achieve two different things and therefore should be treated two different ways. Every treatment session should be making progress towards achieving YOUR goals with an individualized home exercise program that you can perform in between sessions. If you are performing the same exercises day in and day out for few weeks and are not seeing progress, then you should question the PT on taking a different approach to YOUR particular rehabilitation. It doesn’t take long to know that a round peg will not fit into a square hole, and your PT should be able to recommend different treatment options for you.

Is your Physical Therapist teaching you?

The ultimate goal of PT is to instruct and empower you, the patient. You will learn about your condition as well as learn what exercises and/or stretches should be performed after your graduation from PT to reduce the risk of the condition returning. You should ask your PT why they are selecting certain exercises and what their hands on interventions are trying to accomplish. This allows you to understand the rationale behind treating your particular condition and helps with reinforcing the importance of the home exercises they issued you.

Thinking Guy There are a lot of excellent Physical Therapists out there, and there are some Physical Therapists who are not as good. There are a lot of excellent PT clinics, and some that are too overcrowded to be able to offer you the care that you need. You have every right to make sure you are with the right Physical Therapist in the right environment and setting to get you better. Your Physician or your friends may recommend a company that they like or refer to often or are financially vested in, but make sure that the office works for you and will not load you into an overcrowded office where you are working exclusively with an aide or a different PT each session. By having the right team between the physician and the PT, you will get better, faster, and with less of a risk of reinjury. The more you can find out in advance or switch to the right clinic for you, the better you will reach your goals.

Ken Guzzardo, PT, DPT, OCS, SCS
3 Dimensional Physical Therapy
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"The team at 3DPT is made up of dedicated and caring Physical Therapists whose expertise and hands-on approach are what I seek for my patients. It is their fundamental philosophy that has made my professional experiences with them nothing short of exemplary."

     -      Dr. Kathryn Gollotto, DO - Orthopedic Reconstruction Specialists