This Is My First Time To Physical Therapy, What Should I Expect?
One miscommunication about physical therapy is the phrase, “No pain, no gain.” While I believe that there are times in which pain is necessary during the rehabilitation process, I also believe that pain could be a warning sign from the the body telling us that something could be wrong. There are many times that a first-time patient to physical therapy is warned by those around them that the abbreviation “PT” for Physical Therapy stands for “Pain and Torture.”
It is understandable that anxiety or nervousness may set in prior to a healthcare visit such as with a physical therapist. Understanding what to expect while attending a physical therapy visit will not only help relieve un-needed emotions prior to the visit, but will also aide in the success of the patient’s rehabilitation.
Knowing if pain is appropriate during a physical therapy visit is where the physical therapist comes in. After an operation, one could understandably be nervous or scared to do anything that could potentially negate what was done during the operation. It is important to know that pain could be unavoidable during the rehabilitation process, such as following an operation. The physical therapist’s expertise will know when it is appropriate or not to feel pain.
I love when a patient comes in following an operation and makes the comment that they were surprised that the treatment wasn’t painful. Physical therapy doesn’t always have to cause pain or discomfort. Some pain may be unavoidable during the natural healing process of the body. Remember that one of the goals of the physical therapist to decrease the patient’s pain levels, instead of increasing them.
Another thing a patient entering the physical therapy clinic should know is that the body doesn’t heal and change over night. The majority of the time, the patient’s physical therapy goals aren’t accomplished in one visit. With this said, it is often seen in our clinic that a patient will leave our clinic feeling better than when they came in. The length of attending physical therapy depends on the location and type of tissue we are working with. The healing process can take anywhere from 3 to 8 weeks, or even longer.
In a very impatient society, patience is very important to one’s success during physical therapy. The thing to remember is that the goal of physical therapy is not only to improve the patient’s pain levels as fast as we can, but to limit the need, if any, to come back to physical therapy for the same injury. The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) states that the role of the physical therapist is to treat patients “who have medical problems or health-related conditions that limit their abilities to move and perform functional activities in their daily lives”. As one could imagine, accomplishing these goals of changing lifestyle can take some time.
The last, but most important thing to remember when coming to physical therapy is that it works! The physical therapist’s expertise with the diagnosis and treatment of the musculoskeletal system assists in knowing if the patient will benefit from physical therapy. One of my favorite things about being a physical therapist is that I get to see people feel and move better on a daily basis. In our clinic, we have many resources such as orthopedic physicians to refer to, if needed. Our ultimate goal is for the patient to feel better and live a more functional life. If you have any questions on whether physical therapy will be beneficial for you or anyone you know, please don’t hesitate to ask.
Thanks again for reading my blog this month. If you or anyone you know is looking to begin physical therapy and has questions regarding what to expect, please give us a call.
Justin Longhurst, DPT
Utah Physical Therapy – West Haven