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How to choose a physical therapist: What to look for and where to start

Updated: May 22

Are you in pain and you don’t know where to go or how to help it?

I am amazed at how many of us go through life thinking that pain is just a part of life. That we need to suffer in silence or that there are no professionals out there who can help my specific problem. I know you will be led to who and where you need to go. Here are some tips to finding a great Physical Therapist.

  1. Ask around: Start sharing your current physical problem, Ask anyone you come in contact with if they have a similar problem and where did they get the help they needed.

  2. Educational background: research into your potential Physical therapists. Understand where they received their training and ask them questions to clarify. Look up reviews written by people and look for words that resonate with you.

  3. The way he/she respects your body when approaching it: When examining and starting out how do they approach you. Are they familiar with what you are talking about and do they have further questions. Everything about them should be professional - dress and hygiene are on point, their bodies are in excellent physical condition (after all they are Physical therapists), their office is well maintained, their posture shows you they can do what they say they do.

  4. Doesn’t rattle on: This is a key red flag that your professional knows or doesn’t know his stuff. I mean it. If they rattle on, keep interrupting, and are overly confident to the point where you seriously feel the appointment is over before it begins, get out. Keep looking.

  5. Listens well: You know you. Yes the Physical therapist is the expert, yet you know you. Ponder how to articulate what your needs are. Think about how your pain effects you, when it affects your life, and crucial questions you feel need to for sure be addressed in the first meeting. Explain in detail what is going on for your physical ailment and then observe how the Physical therapist listens, formulates, and responds. The way he responds will indicate how well he will treat you in the long run because healing doesn’t happen overnight.

  6. Communicates how to effectively get results: A good Physical therapist understands how to communicate what needs to happen to get the desire results - to be healed and to function. With that being said, he is able to ask clarifying questions and he will always first ask for permission to check, on your body, where exactly you are talking about. He is able to break down medical terms into bite size and relatable concepts and you feel you are able to more fully understand what is going on. Not only does he hear you, he understands and has a program to help you.

  7. Teaches you how to get the best results: 80% or more of physical therapy treatment is personal and usually at home. This is important, even if you go daily, the habits you need to adapt and the healing that needs to take place will require your diligent efforts at home. A proper Physical Therapist will have methods, exercises, and techniques to help you successfully begin to heal at home and then be strengthened when you attend your appointments. (Tip: consistency is the greatest key to long term successful healing).

  8. Creates a plan that enables independence: This last step is entirely on you. You need to ask directly, “What are my milestone goals that I can aim for to make sure I create lasting results and I don’t need to depend on you for the rest of my life?” This is creating a boundary, I am here and I am going to do the work. I want to know, directly, where I am headed and what needs to happen for me to get there. This shows ownership and you have the power to be a partner with your Physical Therapist instead of a bystander to your health. This is crucial when making any change.

I hope this helps you on your journey. I was fortunate enough to have a great Physical Therapist who taught me these things. I am able to walk today because of the help my Physical Therapist gave to me.

How do you feel when you are at your best? How do you want to feel for the rest of your life and are you willing to fight for that?

a man on a balancing ball, being assisted by a physical therapist

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