I don’t know how many times I’ve heard recently from friends and family about their experience while receiving physical therapy. The usual routine is that I ask them about what a typical visit looked like (just to make sure they’re getting proper care). It usually includes the typical standard procedures of an in-network busy PT clinic and I usually shake my head in disgust…but even more shocking is that they assumed that it was the norm! So let me go on my little soapbox and try to educate the general public about some signs that separates the run-of-the-mill PT from the advanced PT
Signs that you’re NOT going to the right physical therapist
-Electrical Stimulation: The clinical benefit of Transcutaneous Electrical Stimulation (TENS) remains controversial. Numerous research studies have shown poor evidence for implementation of TENS as a pain modulator as it is temporary and short-lived. Plus, it takes away from valuable time that the physical therapist could be spending on you!
-Ultrasound: Although ultrasound may have been a “Greatest Hit” back in the 90’s, it has fallen from the charts. Taking a closer look, there is a scary and shocking lack of current research that shows any benefit from this modality. If you want to know more, click here
-One-on-one with physical therapist for less than 30 minutes: If the PT does not have the time to put his/her actual hands on you for more than 30 minutes, guess what??? He/she is probably juggling 2-3 other patients at the same time. It’s no fault of his/hers, but I want the average consumer to be aware there are limitations with going in-network with insurances these days. This is an entirely different topic I may cover later.
-Your PT is bombarding you with a ridiculous amount of exercises that you can’t keep up: Exercises should be clear, simple and concise. Exercises should be focusing on your deficits and easily reproducible. If you have an ongoing list of exercises, maybe you should ask the PT to re-evaluate what you’re doing at home
-They don’t practice what they preach: They’re out of shape and overweight. THERE, I said it! This may sound harsh, but this is a personal pet peeve of mine. There’s no way a PT has the right to tell you how to manage your rehabilitation program if they themselves can’t even take care of their own body. It’s hypocritical and downright wrong!
Signs that you’re going to right physical therapist
-They’re putting their hands on you: Everyone needs to be touched! This may sound weird, but I don’t know how many times I’ve heard from patients that have failed PT elsewhere that hands were never even placed on them. We, as PT’s, can only assess tissue or dysfunction in the body if we place our hands on you. It’s like going to a mechanic and them never even checking under the hood! Demand to be touched!
-They’re listening to you: In my 10+ years as a PT and working in many different practice settings, I’ve seen my share of PT’s spilling their guts out and telling the patient about what’s going on in their lives instead of focusing on them! PT’s are there to focus on your issue and your problems, not there’s. Don’t get me wrong, there is a certain relationship that occurs between the patient and the therapist, but there should be an unquestionable devotion to the patients needs. We are here to serve the patient, not ourselves!
-They’re adjusting exercises: They adjust exercises accordingly and modifying them as you progress. They are selective in their exercise prescription and picking what is relevant. Your PT should be explaining exactly why you are doing a particular exercise. We, as PT’s, are also in the business of educating the patient to empower them so please feel free to ask and be educated!
-Exercise plans are easy, efficient, and reproducible: Too much of a good thing, isn’t a good thing! In my opinion, you cannot and will not do the exercises and homework if it’s too hard! You should be able to perform exercises and any self-treatment techniques on your own long after you’re done with physical therapy.
-You feel empowered to be your own therapist: A PT has done his/her job when the patient feels like they have a solid grasp of how they can manage their pain and impairment. You should feel empowered to take back control of your body.
I hope this helps anyone that has gone through physical therapy before to evaluate what they are receiving from their treatment. You, as consumers, should demand better as we are here to serve and help you get on the right track!