September 28, 2023

What to Expect from Your First Physical Therapy Session

Here's how to prepare for your first visit to physical therapy

Your first physical therapy session is an important step in your journey to address injuries, pain, or other physical issues. However, we recognize that the first session can be anxiety-inducing for some, especially if it's your first time receiving physical therapy.

In this article, we'll outline what you can expect from your first physical therapy session and share some tips for preparing for your first visit.

What happens in the first physical therapy session?

The specific details of your first physical therapy session may vary depending on your condition and the policies of the clinic you visit. Here's what you can generally expect during your first session:

  • Paperwork and Intake: You'll likely be asked to complete some basic paperwork, including a health questionnaire, insurance information, and consent forms. This information helps your physical therapist understand your medical background and current condition.
  • Discussion with Your Therapist: Your therapist will ask you a series of questions about your past and present medical conditions, the reason you're seeking treatment, and your goals. Be ready to talk about any pain or discomfort you're experiencing, as well as any previous treatments or surgeries related to your condition.
  • Physical Examination: Your therapist will complete a comprehensive evaluation of your muscles, joints, nerves, tendons, and ligaments. They'll assess your range of motion, strength, flexibility, posture, balance, and coordination, and they may perform some specific functional tests to evaluate your condition.
  • Diagnosis and Treatment Plan: Based on your physician's diagnosis, your therapist's prognosis, and your goals, your therapist will outline a customized individual treatment plan. This plan includes specific goals, the recommended frequency and duration of treatment sessions, and the proposed treatment techniques.
  • Hands-On Treatment: In some cases, your therapist may begin hands-on treatment during your first session. This can include techniques such as manual therapy, joint mobilization, or soft tissue mobilization.
  • Exercise Program: Your therapist will likely prescribe exercises and stretches based on your condition and goals. They'll demonstrate these exercises to you and ensure you understand how to perform them correctly.
  • Discussion of Home Care: You'll receive instructions on how to continue your treatment at home, including details about exercise routines, self-care techniques, and any assistive devices or equipment you may need.
  • Scheduling Follow-Up Appointments: At the end of your first session, you'll schedule follow-up sessions based on your treatment plan.

What to Wear to Physical Therapy

You'll want to wear loose-fitting, comfortable clothing that allows for ease of movement. Athletic wear such as shorts, sweatpants, leggings, t-shirts, and tank tops, is a good option because it's designed for physical activity. This will make it easier for your therapist to assess your range of motion and perform various tests and exercises.

Choose comfortable, supportive shoes that are suitable for light exercise if your session involves walking or specific lower body exercises.

It's best to keep jewelry to a minimum or leave it at home. Remove any excessive jewelry such as large necklaces, bracelets, dangling earrings, or any other jewelry that can interfere with exercises and assessments.

Your comfort and the ability to move freely are key considerations when choosing what to wear to physical therapy. If you're unsure about what to wear, you can always contact the clinic to ask for guidance on the appropriate attire for your session.

How long does the first visit last?

The duration of your first session can vary based on factors such as the clinic's policies, your specific condition, and the therapist's assessment and treatment plan. However, a typical first physical therapy session lasts between 45 minutes to an hour.

Arriving on time and being prepared with items such as your insurance information and any written information about your injury or condition can help make your first therapy session run smoothly.

Will I need to make a co-payment on my first visit?

Your out-of-pocket expense will vary based on your insurance policy. Prescribed physical therapy is typically covered (at least partially) by most insurance companies. Depending on your insurance policy, you may or may not have a co-payment for your visit.

Schedule your first physical therapy session with Achieve Ortho Rehab.

At Achieve Ortho Rehab, our treatment philosophy is "Movement is the medicine." Individualized one-on-one "hands-on" care, specific manual therapy and exercise instruction, and pain science education are the hallmarks of our unique practice.

Take the first step on the road to recovery. Use the button below to schedule an appointment at the location of your choosing. We can typically see you within 24 hours.

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