As with any profession, there exists a range of expertise and quality of care within the field of Orthopedic Physical Therapy. Some Physical Therapy practices are primarily concerned with the number of patients seen each day and others are more concerned with the quality of the treatments they provide. Skill levels of individual Physical Therapists (PTs) vary widely as well. So what’s a prospective patient to do?
Don’t be quickly persuaded by a lot of shiny weight machines and a practice that has been around for “forever”. These are not accurate markers of a skilled physical therapy facility or practitioner. There are more important facts to research before committing your recovery to a particular therapist or facility. Remember, finding a good PT is critical to not only your recovery, but also in avoiding reoccurrence of pain in the future. The following is a list of questions to ask and things to look for before “signing on” for treatment.
- Ask how often patients are scheduled on each PT’s schedule (One every 15, 20, or 30 minutes?). The tighter the scheduling, the less hands-on treatment you will receive. Thirty minutes is the best scenario, but is often hard to find.
- Are you able to choose which PT will treat you, or are you “shared property”? It is always best to stay with one or at most two PTs. You know the old saying: “Too many cooks spoil the soup.” Your recovery will be more cohesive if you are not “passed around”.
- Does the facility provide Manual (hands-on) Physical Therapy (beyond massage)? If the initial answer is “Yes”, probe further by asking if the physical therapists are educated in Osteopathic (skilled joint evaluation and treatment) or McKenzie (disc and joint) techniques, spinal stabilization training methods (core strengthening), functional mobilization or similar treatment approaches.(*For answers to these questions you will likely need to speak directly with a therapist.)
- Visit the PT site. Is it clean? Is the staff professional? If you don’t like what you see, move on.
- As with any medical service, make sure the facility accepts your medical insurance. If your insurance doesn’t cover PT, often times a practice will offer a discounted rate for cash payers.
Don’t feel awkward about asking questions or requesting to speak with a PT. You are choosing a service on which you will spend much time and money, not to mention you are placing your future health in their hands!