What to expect on your first visit
The first visit with your physical therapist is called the initial evaluation. The initial evaluation consists of a few different parts: History, Objective measurements, assessment, and treatment if appropriate. Throughout the evaluation, your physical therapist will give you clear instructions of what to expect and what to do.
History: During the initial visit, your physical therapist will take the time to learn about your condition or injury. Your therapist will also ask you questions about your previous level of function and how your condition or injury affects your life. Your physical therapist will ask questions about current medication, medical history, and details of any surgery you have had in order to understand the full picture of your health, injury, or condition.
Objective measurements: Your physical therapist will take specific measurements related to your impairment. This may include testing range of motion (how far you can move a certain body part or how far the therapist can move a certain body part for you), strength testing, palpation (the application of the fingers with light pressure to the surface of the body for the purpose of determining the condition of the parts beneath in physical diagnosis), balance testing, neurological screening, and special tests to determine all the factors that are contributing to your current complaint and how to address them. Your physical therapist may ask you to complete functional activities such as bending, walking, or running if they are related to your current injury or condition.
Assessment: Your physical therapist will take all of the information they gained to create a treatment plan individual to you. Your therapist will discuss this treatment plan with you and together you can create goals for your physical therapy course. Your physical therapist will discuss how often they would like to see you and how long they feel you will need to be in physical therapy. Your physical therapist will do his or her best to answer all questions you may have about your current injury or condition.
Treatment: Many times, your therapist will create a Home Exercise Program for you to complete at home between visits. Your physical therapist will instruct you on these exercises and have you complete them in the clinic. Your physical therapist may complete other treatment as well, including manual therapy, balance training, or modalities to decrease pain.
Preparing for your initial Physical Therapy Evaluation
It is helpful to review some important information about your injury or condition prior to your visit so you are prepared the best you can be to answer the questions your physical therapist may have for you. Some things to consider prior to your appointment are:
When and how did your problem begin?
What activities could you do prior to your injury/condition that you are no longer able to perform?
How is your problem changing, and what makes things better or worse?
Review your medications and bring a medication list if you are taking multiple medications
What to wear to your first session
Be prepared to move around a lot during your physical therapy sessions. With that in mind, wear clothing that is easy to move around in. Many times, the physical therapist will need to access the body part where the injury is, so those with shoulder pain should try to wear a shirt that allows access to the shoulder, and those with hip, knee, or ankle pain will be the best prepared if they wear shorts. There are rooms available for changing, so these clothes can be brought with you and changed in to at the start of the visit.