What Will My First Physical Therapy Appointment be Like?


You are experiencing pain and have an appointment booked at a local physical therapy (PT) clinic. (Don’t actually have an appointment booked yet? Use GetPT to find the perfect PT office in your area.)

You might be asking yourself, “What will my first appointment be like?” No worries—this is one of life’s great mysteries that actually has an answer; keep reading.

First off, to ensure that your appointment goes as smoothly as possible, you should wear comfortable clothing that allows for plenty of movement as well as a good, supportive pair of shoes—athletic sneakers, for example. Heading to your physical therapy appointment from work? No problem. The clinic or office will provide an area for you to change into your comfortable clothing.

As with most health care visits, you should come prepared with a photo ID, a list of your medications, your medical history, your insurance card, and the prescription from your MD—if you have it. Don’t hesitate to call the clinic you’re visiting with any questions you have about their specific requirements.

Some form of direct access is available in all 50 states, which means you can go straight to PT without seeing an MD first. If you’re going directly to PT without a physician referral, then you won’t need a prescription. Most clinics also have an option for cash pay if you do not have medical insurance. Contact the clinic directly to find out more on their policies and payment process.

Before your appointment, brainstorm any questions you might have for the physical therapist. On the day of your appointment, you will want to arrive at the clinic about 15 minutes early to fill out your initial paperwork. Your first appointment will last somewhere around 60 minutes, though it may be shorter or longer depending on the clinic.

At your first appointment, the physical therapist will look at your medical history and assess your functional deficits, alignment, posture, and pain levels while also looking at the full picture of your flexibility, endurance, strength, and balance. Following this initial evaluation, the therapist will provide a personalized plan for recovery. You might even dive right into some exercises aimed at addressing your particular issues. The physical therapist will go over the exercises with you to teach proper form. Additionally, the therapist may provide hands-on treatment involving ice, heat, ultrasound, soft tissue mobilization, manipulation, or electrical stimulation.

During this first visit, you will learn more about your injury and the physical therapist will explain your expected recovery timeline. This will determine how many future appointments you will book as you head out of the office.

Leaving already? Hand out some high-fives and get ready for your next PT appointment. Comment below with your what you learned at your first PT visit.

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