5 Things to Consider When Choosing a Physical Therapist
The popularity of physical therapists has significantly increased over the past ten years. Nowadays it has become common for the majority of the population to have seen a physical therapist to treat a variety of injuries, such as acute injuries, rehabilitation from surgery, or trying to manage chronic back pain. Normally your doctor would have referred you to a specific physical therapy clinic or physical therapist that they want you to see, which can be helpful! However sometimes you are just handed a piece of paper that says to go to physical therapy, and then you think, “where do I go from here?”.
We will start with an obvious fact: healthcare is not cheap. If you have health insurance it is best to utilize it to save yourself some money! Most insurance companies have a link on their website where you can search for providers that are covered under your insurance plan. That will significantly narrow down your list of physical therapy clinics accepting insurance in your specific area.
Physical therapists can also specialize in specific areas, such as women’s health, sports, pediatrics, cardiovascular/pulmonary, geriatrics, neurology, and orthopedics. If you have a specific type of injury or medical problem, it might be wise to consider seeing a specialized physical therapist for treatment. A specialized physical therapist simply have more training and has taken extensive courses in their area of specialty and may be better equipped to assist you with your medical problem.
However, as a side note, physical therapists are educated thoroughly in all those above listed areas while in school. So every physical therapist has the tools and education to assist you in all those areas, however if your medical problem is severe you may benefit from a specialized provider.
3. Who Supervises My Treatment?
It’s a fair question to ask the receptionist whenever you call to check in with the clinic to make your first appointment. There are physical therapists, physical therapy assistants, physical therapy aides and techs, all of which have individual training for certain aspects of the field of physical rehabilitation. All can be excellent care providers, but another good question to ask is: “How many patients do they see at one time?”. If you can get one-on-one treatment by a physical therapist, that’s fantastic! However if they tell you that you are treated by a physical therapist, but it’s at the same time as 2-3 other patients, it’s important to consider how much expert one-on-one time you can really expect.
4. Referrals and Reviews
This is probably the most obvious advice, but ask your friends and family who they would recommend for a physical therapist! It’s very likely someone you interact with on a weekly basis has had physical therapy treatment at some point in their life, so make an effort to ask around. If you ask someone who was once a physical therapy patient, they’re more likely to give you their unbiased opinion.
Online reviews such as those on Yelp can also be a great way to vet a physical therapist before booking your appointment.
5. Services Offered
Clinics can offer a variety of physical therapy services to help you rehabilitate from your injury or chronic pain. It is within our scope of practice to utilize “modalities” such as ultrasound, phonophoresis, electrical stimulation, mechanical traction, or ice/heat to aide patients. Other types of services you may see include aquatic therapy, manual therapy, or specialty services discussed in Tip #2.
Be aware that just because a clinic has a huge list of services, doesn’t mean that it is the best one to go with. Use the services and treatments offered, in conjunction with the other tips listed above, to select the right physical therapist for you!
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