Choosing a PT, part 1

  • May 8, 2017

I have come to a realization that many individuals are not sure what to look for when selecting a Physical Therapist. Many seem to think it does not or will not make much of a difference. For most, it is call some office and play the therapist roulette game. Which therapist had the 1st open slot that fits your schedule. Who knows how much experience they really have. Not to mention starting with one provider only to see 3 more assistants along the way. Maybe 15 minutes of face time with your actual evaluating therapist each session if you are lucky.

All this to say choosing a Physical Therapist should be a little like choosing your doctor. Just like all doctors are not experts in all aspects of medicine, neither are physical therapists. As you would typically not go to your PCP for your cardiac issue, you should take stock in the PT’s background to best treat your condition. We walk away from school with the same credentials, but the similarities end there. All educations are not created equal either, but that is another issue altogether.

Below are the TOP 11 TIPS one should consider when seeking help from a physical therapist for an issue impacting their mobility or independence. (They are in no particular order).

#11 Availability/convenience…How easy is it to get an appointment time that suits you? Morning, Afternoon, Evening, Weekend? How about being seen at your home or place of business? What could be better than not evening having to leave your home or leave work early and battle traffic for an appointment?

#10 Advice from family/friends…certainly good referrals. One must always consider the skill set of the treating therapist though. Is your condition like the one who gave you the advice? Just because a therapist is good with one condition does not mean they are good with all.

#9 How much time and attention….will you be receiving from your primary physical therapist? Do not let yourself be fooled by large corporations or chains who say they deliver 1:1 care. Large PT providers have their patient care driven by productivity, not patient outcomes. This means each PT will be managing 2 or more (mostly more) patients at once trying to meet unattainable benchmarks. Meaning your care could and most likely will be supervised by assistants or other support staff. You will never be told this on the phone, but it is true.

#8 Active v. Passive treatments…be wary of the provider who you see using passive treatments such as ice/heat, ultrasound, estim, massage on Every Single Patient. While those treatments may “feel good” are they really helping you to achieve the end goal of better function with less pain or stiffness? Look for a PT who uses a unique active approach for patients. If you are told 3 sets of 10 for every exercise – time to find someone else.

#7 Location….somewhat important, however, what is more important convenience or achieving resolution of pain/function quicker? Patients drive hours to see a doctor they view a skilled so why not drive a few minutes more to the most skilled therapist you can access.

#6 Ease of Communication…how easily can you get in contact with your treating therapist? Via phone, text, email. How quickly will they respond to you? On weekends? Holidays? When most therapists leave the office, they leave their work their and will wait to respond until

Stay tuned next week for Part 2

9 comments on “Choosing a PT, part 1

  1. Thanks for the tips for choosing a physical therapist. I hurt my knee playing ball a few months ago, and it hasn’t gotten better. I want to find a physical therapist who can help get me back in action. I really like what you mentioned about making sure you find somebody who will give you individual attention and care. Everybody is different, so I want somebody that will treat me as an individual.

    1. Andy Zang says:

      It really is important to find that therapist who is able to treat you as a whole person and work with you to achieve your goals vs just treating you as a diagnosis. Hope you find that therapist to help you achieve your goals

  2. Marcus Coons says:

    I agree with you in that it is important to choose a physical therapist that is easy to get a hold of and returns your calls promptly. My mom fell a few weeks back and after she got done with her doctor she was told to see a physical therapist. As I see it, taking the time to look online and read reviews and ratings can help anyone make sure they choose the best therapist to help them regain their movement and strength.

    1. Andy Zang says:

      Taking the time to learn who will be seeing your or a loved one is important. Unfortunately at most facilities now they will just put you with the 1st available unless you make a request for someone specific. Could be the newest PT out of school which is not a knock on them, but sometimes, especially if you have dealt with an issue for a long time you are looking for that person with experience. AND someone who will take the time to spend with you, not trying to manage 2 or more people in addition to you.

  3. Kyle Winters says:

    Not many people would think about it, but I really like that you included communication as something a physical therapist needs to be good with. After all, if you need to change an appointment for any reason, then you need to be able to get in touch with them. Open communication can also come in handy if you need to talk to them about changing your routine for anything.

    1. Andy Zang says:

      Kyle- It is absolutely important to have those lines of communication open. Knowing why a person may have cancelled an appointment is important and absolutely to make modifications to program as necessary. I encourage my clients to reach me any way that want (phone, text, email).

  4. Marcus Coons says:

    Thank you for mentioning how you should take into account how easily you can get in contact with the physical therapist you want to hire. I can see that doing this can help you understand where you can go to get the best help and treatment you need to know how to get better. As I see it, taking the time to read reviews and compare several professionals can help you find someone that can help you regain the mobility of your body and get back to your normal life.

  5. Joy Butler says:

    My dad just got out of a knee surgery and I wanted to know how we could help him make a full recovery. I agree that putting physical therapy on top of the list if a good idea. Finding a good one, I believe, is half the battle won. Do you have any diet suggestions as well? Thanks!

    1. Andy Zang says:

      This is best answered by a dietician or nutritionist for specifics. But from a general perspective, simply eating a well-balanced diet should suffice. Plenty of fruits/veg with lean meats in addition to drinking water will provide the body what it needs to heal and get moving again.

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