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Expert Contribution

What Should You Expect From Your First Physical Therapy Visit?

By Mark E. Reitz, PT
Penn Therapy Associates
Newtown Square Friends & Neighbors, September 2022

Have you ever been to a Physical Therapist (PT) for treatment? Most people haven’t and so do not know what to expect from their first visit. The experience should be consistent across the spectrum of care, but unfortunately it isn’t. As with doctors, dentists, chiropractors or any health care provider, the experiences can vary from wonderful to disappointing. Here’s what your first experience at a PT office should look like.

Whether you’ve been referred by a physician or dentist (yes dentists often refer patients for head, neck or facial pain like TMJ disorders), or you’re going without a referral, you should be given an extensive evaluation upon your first visit. This should be done in a private room so that your medical information is not being broadcast across a large room where others can hear your conversation. It must also be performed by a licensed PT and not a PT assistant or other office personnel. 

The evaluation should cover your overall medical history including medications, in addition to an extensive examination of the specific area of your body for which you are seeking care. Strength, range of motion, sensation and often balance should be assessed in addition to a hands-on exam, which should include palpation of painful areas. The PT should ask for the history and cause of the pain or dysfunction for which you wish to be treated. Next, there should be a discussion about YOUR treatment goals and a plan put in place. Only at this point should your actual treatment begin, and yes you should receive treatment in addition to your evaluation on your first visit.

Your PT should discuss the anatomy involved in your diagnosis and the reasons for the treatment rendered. They should teach you how and why you were hurt and how to prevent further injury or exacerbation of your present condition. Hands-on care, such as passive stretches, soft tissue release, trigger point massage or edema control techniques should be utilized on most if not all sessions. Detailed exercise instructions including demonstrations should be given to the patient, who should then demonstrate the exercises themselves. Every patient should go home with a home exercise program to supplement their PT session.

There are many practices in the area that offer this kind of one-on-one attention that you deserve. Ask questions when you call for your first appointment so you know what to expect and if it doesn’t sound like what you just read, move on and look elsewhere. You deserve the best and it is out there if you know what you’re looking for.

About The Author

Physical Therapy
Mark E. Reitz, PT
Penn Therapy Associates

Mark E. Reitz, PT, began practicing in 1979, at the Hospital at the University of Pennsylvania, following his education at Columbia University. After serving there as Senior Orthopedic Therapist for three years, he founded Penn Therapy Associates in Broomall in 1984. In 1988, Mark and three colleagues who were also Physical Therapists founded Penn Sports Rehab in King of Prussia. These two companies worked together, to establish themselves as premier orthopedic rehabilitation clinics. They attracted many complicated cases referred by surgeons, case managers, and manufacturing companies. Mark expanded the companies into long-term care as well as performing peer reviews for many insurance companies. In 1996, Mark and his partners were provided with an excellent opportunity to sell both companies and expand into more occupational medicine with Atlantic Health Group. When that opportunity fell short of expectations, Mark reformed Penn Therapy Associates, Inc. At that same time, Mark formed a joint venture with his friend Roy Lerman, M.D., at Main Line Spine in King of Prussia. That facility continues to operate as a satellite facility of Penn Therapy Associates.

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