It’s been a while that something has been nagging at your joints. Maybe you remember when it happened. Maybe it came out of nowhere. Maybe it’s been on and off for the last 20 years. Or maybe you are just worried that something feels different and you don’t want it to build up to something worse.
So you sign up for your first Physical Therapy session, but you have no idea what a physical therapist is or what they even do. You follow a few on social media so maybe they do exercises and massage??? Who knows??
Your friends and family have gone to one and give you their amazing (and/or terrible) experience stories. Still, you have nothing to really hang your hat on as far as what is going to happen after you show up.
Well let me fill the gap for you.
This is not necessarily what is going to happen but it definitely is what you should expect to happen. All physical therapy clinics are not made the same and all physical therapists have different philosophies and practice styles. So let’s start with who we are.
We are Doctors of Physical Therapy. We had a graduate school education after receiving our bachelors. We are licensed in our states after passing board exams. Some go into residencies and fellowship postdoctoral education. We dive deeper into the combination of anatomy, biomechanics, and rehabilitation than any other medical profession. We then learn how to apply interventions and treatments to improve your symptoms and ability to move without the use of surgery, shots, or medications. Finally we give you the education you need to stay healthy.
So now you walk into the PT office and fill out all of your patient intake forms. You play around on your phone waiting for someone to call your name. Then you hear it.
The first thing that is going to happen after your meet your physical therapist is an in depth conversation. You’re going to be asked a few questions to help us figure out what you’re going through, here are a few things you might want to prep:
Where does it hurt and what does it feel like?
What makes it better and what makes it worse?
When did it start and how?
What can you not do anymore because of it?
What do you want to get back to doing?
This conversation gives us some insight to who you are and what you are going through. This is where you tell us EVERYTHING we need to know in order to start helping you. We don’t rush you through like most other Doctors appointments in order to throw some treatments at you. Usually, we have WAY MORE TIME to get to know you to find the right treatment.
Once we have a good idea of what is going on we move on to some testing. Here we will make you do some movements and tests that will help us nail down some deficiencies and restrictions that are hidden within your muscles, joints, and tissues.
It’s important to wear some loose fitting clothing to help the exam move along. Gym attire is appropriate. But most importantly, make sure you can expose the joint or area that is of most concern. (i.e. some leggings don’t pull up past the knees)
Now that we have a good idea of your experiences and how your tissues and joints are moving, we can sit with you and put it all together. The big picture comes into play and helps you understand how your life is contributing to your current symptoms. The conversation gives us what you have been going through and the testing gives us where you are currently.
The expertise of the physical therapist will connect the dots between the two in order to interpret how to move forward. This comes from our experience with past patients and the knowledge of the research.
The next step is treatment, here we will address those deficits we saw in the testing that we think are most impactful to your situation. Maybe you need something strengthened, maybe you need something loosened up, maybe you need to remember how to use some part of your body you haven’t paid attention to in years.
Done? Good! Now let’s go over what you need to do until the next session so this doesn’t come back. This is where you will learn how to treat yourself with a few movements, exercises, or stretches. This will make sure the next session is a progression from the current one and not a repeat. You will also get some education on habits you have that are feeding the deficits and hopefully some strategies to improve these behaviors.
Finally, a prognosis. A break down of how long it is going to take for you to get through this, what is expected of you to help the progression and what you can expect from us to further the plan of care.
This should also include how often you need to be seen. This is individualized based on your current condition, and lifestyle factors.
So we nailed down:
Who you are.
What you are going through.
The current state of your tissues and joints.
How they interact while you move.
How we can best effect change now.
How we can continue progression towards pain free function.
Wait where is my massage? I thought you were going to teach me how to squat.
Coming in with expectations is important but if you’re following along with the thought process of the evaluation you will understand why you are getting exactly what you need. Even if it is not what you expected when you came in.
We have so many tools to pull from when it comes to effecting the tissues that things like massage and movement training are only a fraction of what we do. The important part is that we find what works best for you. If you are at the right therapist then you understand why what you expected is not as important as what you are getting.
Yes you want to squat better, but if you don’t have the right mobility in a certain joint we can’t teach you. We need to lay down the foundation for you to squat on before we go to skill preparation.
If you want to start the conversation about finding what treatments work best for you, message me, email me, find me on social media, call or text. Let us get the whole picture together through collaboration and in depth testing.
Dr. Leo Valenzuela PT, DPT
Los Leones Physical Therapy