What Should I Expect at My First Physical Therapy Appointment?

physical therapy shoulder assessment
Sarah Macomber_2022
PT, DPT, ATC
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So, you hurt yourself. Now what? Statistics and research have shown that 50 percent of Americans 18 and older will need physical therapy care for musculoskeletal conditions each year. But those who have never experienced physical therapy may not know what to expect. Once you’ve gone online to search “find a PT near me,” you’ll discover that Therapeutic Associates Physical Therapy has conveniently located clinics throughout the Pacific NW.  Each of our clinics offers a range of PT services designed for rehabilitation, pain relief, function restoration, injury prevention as well as movement and performance enhancement. 

Your first visit, or your initial evaluation, will be your first introduction to your physical therapist and your care team.

Upon arriving at one of our Therapeutic Associates Physical Therapy clinics, you can expect a warm welcome from our front desk team. We will walk you through a very quick review of your paperwork and insurance benefits. At each of our clinics, we know your time is valuable and pride ourselves on having an efficient and quick check-in process so we can start addressing your concerns as soon as possible.

first visit discussion with PT

Once you are checked in, you will meet your physical therapist and care team, which may include a physical therapy assistant/aide or an exercise specialist. We start by learning all about you. This includes the obvious questions of how you were injured and more about your pain. Additionally, we take the time to learn about what you enjoy doing for fun, your work, how you are limited in your day-to-day routine, and what is important to you on your physical therapy journey.

Following this conversation, your physical therapist will begin a physical assessment. As movement specialists we need to see how you move, so wearing clothing that allows your area of pain to be accessible is very helpful. We will go through a series of tests assessing how you walk, your posture, strength, motion and mobility, your biomechanics and more. During the assessment, rather than focusing only on the area causing you pain, we also look at other body regions which may impact the pain or dysfunction. For example, if you are coming in with pain in your knee, a thorough exam will also include an assessment of your foot, hip and back. This allows us to have a comprehensive view and understanding of your body mechanics.

It’s important to us that you gain a full understanding of your injury or condition based on our findings. We take the time during our assessment to explain what we discover and encourage you to ask any questions you may have. 

You will see us writing things down throughout the exam as we make notes of everything we see and test, not only for our own charts, but also so we can communicate our findings with your medical doctor and others involved in your healthcare outside of our clinic.

physical therapist takes notes talking to patient

We prioritize shared decision-making, which is key to aligning your therapist’s goals with your goals. We want to ensure you have a voice and are an active participant in the decisions about your healthcare. We will work with you to design and develop a personalized plan of care for recovery that will get you back to what you love as quickly and safely as possible.

Now time for the homework. After your thorough assessment and discussion about the best treatment pathway, your physical therapist will provide you with a home exercise program (HEP). This will contain exercises specified for you based on the impairments detected during your exam and on your goals. These may include activities targeting strength, flexibility, breathing patterns, balance, posture, and more. You will often receive a paper copy, but our HEPs are also available online and on an app for your smartphone to make them more convenient and accessible.

Before you leave from your first appointment, we’ll invite you to schedule your next few visits to ensure continuity of care and to best be able to accommodate your availability.

The initial physical therapy evaluation is the launching point for care focused on each individual and will help to guide the physical therapy process. Throughout your journey, we reassess as we go through each PT session to ensure we are helping you meet your goals and return to the important things in life.

Your family PT for life.

From injury recovery to movement and performance enhancement, patient success is our passion. Our therapists are committed to providing comprehensive, compassionate care to patients of all ages and abilities. Your goals matter. We want to help you reach them.

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