What is the Average Physical Therapy Visit Like?


Physical therapy (PT) can effectively treat a wide variety of diagnoses. No need to be apprehensive about therapy, though. Here, I’ll give you the skinny on an average PT visit.

After your therapist completes your initial assessment, you will begin with your specific treatment plan. What is an initial assessment? Good question. Check out this blog post outlining what to expect on your very first PT visit.

Ultrasound and e-stim and ice therapy—oh my! These are just a few of the treatments you might receive during a typical PT visit. These terms may sound foreign, but the important thing is that the goal of each one is to reduce or eliminate pain. Ultrasound is a modality that uses sound waves to create heat within the joint, loosening up tissues and increasing blood flow to the problem area. This type of treatment also is beneficial for inflammation. The ultrasound gel might be a little chilly at first, but that’s the worst of the discomfort you’ll experience with this modality.

Electrical stimulation (e-stim) uses an electrical current to simulate the same impulses your muscles produce during exercise. E-stim can help with muscle toning, strength training, and pain control. Don’t be “shocked”—like ultrasound, this treatment is not painful.

As for ice therapy (a.k.a. “Ice, Ice, baby”): Cold narrows blood vessels, reducing inflammation and thus, relieving pain. Physical therapists use ice therapy to treat both acute injuries and chronic injuries. Ice also enhances the effectiveness of treatments such as massage and manipulation of the muscle (manual therapy), as it helps make the joint more mobile.

During an average PT visit, you’ll do exercises specific to your injury and rehabilitation needs. After a quick warm-up, the therapist will go over your home exercise program and teach you proper form for the exercises he or she selected for you.

When all is said and done—after 60 minutes, give or take a few—you might experience some post-visit soreness from all your hard work. This soreness may become worse over the next 48 hours or so. This is normal, but if your pain persists or worsens after more than two days, contact your therapist.

Love PT? Not sure about a particular method of treatment? Let’s talk. Comment below.

In this article