Going to your first physical therapy session may put you on edge if you don’t know what to expect. The good news is there is nothing to fear! With more than 1.5 billion people across the globe suffering from chronic pain and more than 650 muscles and roughly 206 bones in the human body potentially causing problems, physical therapy is an extremely common practice and treatment option. Here’s what to expect during the course of your treatment:
- Your First Appointment Will Be An Assessment
- Work With Your Physical Therapist To Determine a Treatment Plan
- Stick With It! It’s Important To Complete At-Home Assignments
Relax! It’s pretty unlikely that your first appointment will require a great deal from you physically. Before treating your pain or chronic pain conditions with exercise, your physical therapist will assess your current muscle strength and range of mobility using rehab tools, such as range of motion testing, physical assessment software, muscle strength testing equipment, and/or pressure-pain threshold testing equipment like algometers. What does that mean? Don’t worry! Simply put, your physical therapist will determine how much pain you’re in, where it hurts, and how you can safely and prudently treat it.
Once your physical therapist determines the source of your pain and your current ability, they will work with you to create a treatment plan. This will include exercises, stretches, length of sessions, frequency of sessions, and more. Although it varies, Harvard University Health Services’ Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) Mary Ann Wilmarth advises, “Six to 12 visits is enough to cover most diagnoses, but even one to two can get people going in the right way.”
Physical therapy and rehab tools provide a slew of obvious benefits. Those include no surgery, non-invasive interventions, and drug-free interventions. That does not mean that healing comes easily. Although physical therapy is very effective and proven to provide long-lasting results, patients need to put in the time and effort.
During physical therapy sessions, your DPT is likely to show you stretches and exercises that you can do at home and will ask you do to them regularly! These repetitive motions increase your range of mobility, strengthen bones and muscles, and provide long-term pain relief. “Fudging it” or only doing exercises very sporadically renders treatment less effective and hurts the patient in the long run. If you are experiencing unbearable discomfort, talk to your physical therapist. There may be some additional rehab tools or methods they can recommend to ease your discomfort.
Don’t be scared to take advantage of one of the most effective and long-term pain relief treatments: physical therapy. Expect an initial assessment or exam, a specific plan of attack laid out by your DPT, and the establishment of a regular routine of exercises and stretches, in and out of the clinic.