Answers to the most common physical therapy frequently asked questions

What is physical therapy?

Physical therapy is a process of evaluation and treatment of injuries. Treatment techniques include exercise and stretching, manual therapy, patient education, and modalities such as ultrasound, electrical stimulation, ice, and heat. Physical therapy is an “evidenced-based” practice, which simply means our techniques are based on medical research and evidence. Physical therapy is a comprehensive approach to restoring function—what you could do before you were injured. We focus on the short-term relief of existing pain and the long-term restoration of strength, mobility, and function to prevent reinjury. As part of a comprehensive process, we often work in conjunction with physicians and surgeons, as well as other ancillary medical providers such as chiropractors and massage therapists. Each physical therapy program in our clinic is individualized to maximize your rehabilitation success and help you meet your personal goals.

What is manual therapy?

Manual therapy is a hands-on treatment technique used in physical therapy and, we believe, critical to your rehabilitation success. In manual therapy we focus on joint alignment and mobility, followed by building strength around the joint in order to restore stability. Manual therapy techniques include joint and soft tissue mobilization and manual traction, among others. Such techniques are proven to provide pain relief more effectively than passive treatments, such as modalities and medication. “Mobilization” in manual physical therapy is different than what some people experience in a chiropractor’s office. In general, manual physical therapy techniques tend to be less invasive and more comfortable for patients than chiropractic “adjustments.” This is why we sometimes work in conjunction with chiropractors on patients that have particularly acute levels of pain.

How do I know if I should be in physical therapy?

Some of the most common goals of our patients include resolving pain, increasing strength and/or flexibility, restoring proper muscle balance, decreasing muscle spasms, improving neurodynamics, improving posture and body mechanics, and restoring function to return to work and recreational activities. The underlying causes of pain and other symptoms are varied from inactivity and aging to disease, overuse, high impact injury (such as a machinery or auto accident) and soft tissue damage. Your physician may also refer you for physical therapy as part of a pre-surgical or post-surgical process. If you are not sure if physical therapy might help you, call and speak to our staff, discuss it with your physician, or schedule an evaluation and find out if physical therapy is appropriate for your condition.

Who will do my physical therapy treatment?

You will be treated by a licensed physical therapist. Your appointments will generally be with the same therapist so you receive the best continuity of care. Aides and licensed physical therapy assistants may also help with your treatment at the direction of your therapist.

What should I expect during my first physical therapy visit?

The first visit is typically 45-60 minutes in duration. Your injury will be thoroughly evaluated and you will have an extensive discussion with a licensed physical therapist about your injury, your pre-injury activities, and your treatment goals. We will start your treatment, focusing on the relief of any acute pain first, and get you started with your first home exercises. Patient education is part of every visit, so be sure to bring your questions to this or any other appointment.

At future visits you will warm-up on the stationary bike, treadmill or exercise ball before working through your exercise program. Your physical therapist will watch you as you perform each of the exercises and will use their observations to update your evaluation and progress your home exercise program. Most visits, including your first visit, will involve manual therapy performed by the physical therapist, and may involve a “modality” such as ice, heat, electrical stimulation, or ultrasound.

What should I bring to physical therapy?

  • Comfortable clothes – shorts, tee shirt and athletic shoes usually work best
  • Medical prescription for therapy if applicable
  • Current insurance card
  • New patient forms
  • Patient Information Sheet
  • Consent to Participate
  • Notice of Privacy Practices