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What even is Physical Therapy?

According to the American Physical Therapy Association, physical therapy by definition is “treatment provided by a physical therapist or physical therapist assistant that helps people improve their movement and physical function, manage pain and other chronic conditions, and recover from and prevent injury and chronic disease”. Physical therapists train to be movement experts who examine, diagnose, and treat movement dysfunctions. What that long definition actually entails in real life will vary from person to person, place to place! In our physical therapy practice, you can expect to work on managing pain, increasing strength and mobility, and improving your overall wellness. But, physical therapy comes in many other different forms and settings (like in-home or in-hospital) and specialties (including neurology or cardiopulmonary).

At your first visit with a physical therapist especially in our practice, you should expect a few things to happen:

Talking - and quite a bit of it! We spend a lot of time initially discussing what brought you to physical therapy in the first place, injury and treatment histories, how your life is being impacted and what you want to achieve. This takes more than the 2 minutes you sometimes get at a regular doctor’s visit - we don’t rush the process of finding out why you’re in our office and why you have the goals you do!

Assessment - this is the part where we have you do different movements in order to look at joint flexibility and mobility as well as muscular strength and control. We start with a head-to-toe glance at this, and then further zoom in to the “problem areas” as we go along.

Treatment - at the very least, you’ll learn the initial few exercises that will be assigned as your homework based on what we found during the assessment. If there is extra time, sometimes we are able to do some massage and joint work too!

More talking - at the end we wrap up talking through what we found and why that matters with whatever your pain or complaint is. We’ll talk about what our plan is to address those findings and to reach YOUR goals!

An important note for all physical therapy - don’t expect to feel massive improvement after this first visit. Remember that this first visit isn’t about treatment, it’s about the physical therapist assessing/examining and diagnosing so we can form a treatment plan → once that plan gets rolling, that’s when you should start noticing more improvements! You SHOULD leave your first visit feeling like you have an understanding of what is causing your complaint/issue and what will be done to get you feeling your best over the next (likely) several weeks.

At your first visit, that is when the process really gets started!

Since the major testing and examination is all taken care of at that point, we’re able to take that plan we developed on day 1 and place it into action! This is where, over the course of a few weeks, you should start to feel less pain, more flexibility, more strength, and start to see progress toward your goals. Depending on your preference and what it seems like you need in order to achieve those goals, you may begin with some hands-on massage work and stretching before doing any exercise; we might look at your car if you do a lot of driving and notice that affecting your pain, or set up a mock-workstation for our friends with pain related to being at a desk.

At Core, we believe “PT exercises” shouldn’t look much different than any other exercise you do at a gym for fitness by the end stages of PT, so don’t expect physical therapy to be all resistance bands and 2 pound weights! Though we certainly may start there, our offices are inside very well-equipped gyms for a reason! That being said, you should feel encouraged and guided in how to get yourself moving and exercising to feel your best. There is always some accompanying homework (exercises) to do, because THAT is where the magic happens - getting in the repetitions you need to several times per week outside of physical therapy in a way that works with YOUR life.

We physical therapists often have to remind ourselves that not everyone knows what we do - honestly, a lot of people have no idea! Of course we forget about this because we do it all day long, so we hope you found this information helpful!


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