Physical Therapy: Your Frequently Asked Questions

Did you know that October is Physical Therapy Month!?
Our Physical Therapists have answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about Physical Therapy and the injury recovery process.


What is physical therapy?

Physical therapy uses evidence based kinesiology, exercise prescription, health education, mobilization and modalities to treat acute or chronic pain, movement and physical impairments resulting from injury, trauma, surgery or an illness. The goal is to improve a patients’ physical function.

What happens during a physical therapy session?

The first appointment is an evaluation to assess injury, deficits, pain levels, range of motion, strength, etc. The following appointments typically last an hour (give or take) and include exercises monitored by the PT and PTA, focusing on increasing strength, mobility and stability. The therapy team will also discuss carryover for home activities, and manual techniques/modalities to decrease pain.

What should I wear to my therapy appointment?

Comfortable, loose- fitting clothing where the treatment site is easily accessible. Supportive shoes are also extremely important to any physical therapy session.

How frequent will my therapy appointments be?

Frequency of appointments depend on your diagnosis, severity, insurance, and therapist-patient input. A common schedule includes sessions 2-3 times/week for 4-6 weeks. However, some cases require a manipulation of the schedule, such as daily sessions for 2 weeks and then 2-3 times/ week for 4 weeks.

How long will it take me to recover? How long will I need to continue doing exercises/stretches at home?

Every condition is different and everyone heals at a different rate. If your sessions are not producing the expected results after a few weeks, your Physical Therapist will likely refer you back to your physician. In general, you should attend PT as scheduled until you achieve the goals established. Since no two patients are the same, putting a strict timeframe on recovery time can lead to unrealistic expectations.

Home exercises are typically recommended to continue 2 times per day for 2 weeks after discharge from therapy, reducing to 1 time per day for an additional 2 weeks. Keeping exercise plans handy at home is always a good idea in case mild pain/discomfort returns.

How does my age affect my physical therapy plan?

Like anything, the older you are, the longer it will likely take for you to heal.
Muscle mass in the body tends to decrease after the age of 45.  As the muscle protein rebuilding and repair processes becomes slower and less effective, physical strength in the body decreases, making it harder to recover from surgery or injury.

How much outside activity is considered “too much”?

Activity is based on how you feel. Any activity can be good but you should always listen to your body and take breaks as needed. Try reintroducing normal activities at a reduced rate.  If it normally takes you an hour to complete an activity, split it into two, half our sessions with a few hours rest in-between.

Can I use physical therapy instead of having surgery?

Yes, and many people do! It all depends on your diagnosis and the severity of your symptoms. There are some studies that shows PT can be just as effective as surgery. If PT eliminates your pain and/or helps you to heal from an injury, there may be no need for surgery. PT is often recommended by surgeons as an initial, more conservative approach to healing, recommending surgery only if therapy fails.

What are the education requirements to become a Physical Therapist?

Currently, to practice as a Physical Therapist  you need to earn a clinical doctorate degree and pass a state licensing exam. Most programs include a bachelors degree (typically in exercise science, biology, kinesiology, or psychology) and then a 3–4 year doctorate program.

What is a PTA and how are they involved in my appointment?

PTA stands for Physical Therapy Assistant. PTAs work under the direction and supervision of a licensed PT to perform  daily sessions with patients, progress them through exercises and complete manual techniques.

To learn more about the Physical Therapy services we have to offer or to schedule an appointment at any of our PT locations, visit our Physical Therapy Services Page.
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