Considering PT? Here Are the Most Important Things to Look for in a Physical Therapist

Rae Steinbach
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Physical therapy is part of an effective treatment plan for a wide variety of injuries and illnesses.

Physical therapy (often referred to as PT) offers many benefits and can help you get back to your normal lifestyle by reducing pain and improving how you function. Depending on the situation, you may need to be referred to a physical therapist by a doctor.

It’s also easy to find a physical therapist online, as information about physical therapy is widely available.

Your doctor may also be able to recommend you to a specific practitioner based on your condition and their own experience. Friends and family may also know physical therapists who they trust.

However, everyone has unique needs and preferences, so it can be difficult to know which physical therapist is right for you.
 
 

Who Can Benefit From Physical Therapy?

Many people associate physical therapy with recovery. And while that is certainly one possible benefit, the truth is that physical therapy can help with everything from pain relief to improving mobility.

Some common conditions people attempt to ameliorate through physical therapy include:

  • Recovery from sports-related injuries
  • Relief from chronic pain
  • Rehab following a stroke
  • Management of conditions such as Parkinson’s, cerebral palsy, and cystic fibrosis

 
Effective physical therapy can also remove the need for more invasive medical treatments (such as surgery). It can also be used as an alternative to an opioid prescription.
 

 
 
There are also sub-specializations within the field of physical therapy that focus on specific issues, such as:

  • Orthopedic
  • Pediatric
  • Neurological
  • Geriatric
  • Cardiovascular and pulmonary

 
Once your physical therapist has an understanding of your medical history and your current situation, he or she will help you to create a treatment plan. This often includes home exercises and lifestyle adjustments.

 
 

So, How Do You Choose a Physical Therapist? Consider These 4 Factors:

While your personal rapport with a physical therapist is an important part of treatment, you’ll need to get some information before committing. The following should be your main considerations when you’re looking for a new physical therapist.
 

1. Insurance Coverage

It might sound obvious, but many people aren’t aware of their insurance coverage. This can obviously lead to significant variations in price.

Physical therapy sessions can be extremely expensive without insurance, and different insurers work with different care providers.

Before deciding on a physical therapist, confirm with both sides that you’ll be covered. Your therapist should be able to answer most questions about your specific insurance plan. But you can, of course, also call your insurance provider for details about your coverage.

Most insurance plans will make physical therapy relatively affordable, but you shouldn’t assume that you’ll be covered.
 

2. Experience and Specializations

While all physical therapists go through a general education program, that doesn’t mean that every provider is equally helpful in each situation. Some focus on specific injuries or areas of the body. So, it may be worth looking for a therapist who is experienced with your condition.

The American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties has certification programs available in eight different fields, including orthopedic, pediatric, and sports.

Your doctor may be able to refer you to a physical therapist who’s certified in a relevant field. And this can help you get the high-quality, targeted care you need.
 

 
 

3. Cancellation Policies

Physical therapy can be difficult to fit into a busy schedule. Missing the occasional appointment is sometimes unavoidable. It’s common for physical therapists to charge a fee for last-minute cancellations, most often within 24 hours of the scheduled appointment.

Look for a physical therapist that has physical therapy scheduling software so you can find appointment times that work best for your schedule. Still, if you need to cancel, try to inform your PT as soon as possible.
 

4. Group and Individual Treatment

Many physical therapists work with one patient at a time, but you may also be able to attend a group session.

Both settings can be equally effective, but you should confirm this with any new provider. You may prefer to receive one-to-one attention and personalized treatment rather than a more generic group approach.
 
 

Find the Perfect Physical Therapist for Your Needs

Starting physical therapy is a great way to quickly and maybe even completely recover from an injury or illness.

If it’s your first time being treated in this setting, you may not know what to look for in a new provider. Keep these considerations in mind to help you to make an informed decision and find the right physical therapist for you.

All included information is not intended to treat or diagnose. The views expressed are those of the author and should be attributed solely to the author. For medical questions, please consult your healthcare provider.

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Rae Steinbach

Rae is a graduate of Tufts University with a combined International Relations and Chinese degree. After spending time living and working abroad in China, she returned to NYC to pursue her career and continue curating quality content. Rae is passionate about travel, food, and writing, of course.

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