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Finding the Right Physical Therapist for Your Needs

woman doing exercises with physical therapist

Physical therapists are body movement experts. They work with you to improve mobility, balance, and strength, help you manage pain, and educate you on how to prevent future functional impairments.

After conducting a thorough physical assessment, your physical therapist will design a treatment plan tailored to your individual needs, challenges, and goals. Your therapist will educate you about your condition and what you can do to improve it, provide hands-on therapy, and prescribe an exercise program to perform in the clinic and at home.

How can you ensure that you’re working with the right physical therapy professional? Let’s explore how physical therapists can help you and what to look for in a therapist.

Benefits of Physical Therapy

The wide range of conditions physical therapists treat surprises many people who associate physical therapy solely with injuries. In fact, physical therapists treat many different conditions, including:

  • Physical and occupational therapy
  • Acute injuries, including sports injuries
  • Orthopedic conditions
  • Back, neck, and other pain issues
  • Chronic conditions
  • Pre- and post-surgery
  • Hand and upper extremity conditions
  • Balance and strength
  • Speech therapy
  • Pediatric or aging-related issues
  • Work injury therapy
  • Cardiopulmonary rehab

Depending on the condition being treated, physical therapists use a variety of pain management and rehabilitation modalities, including massage and other external manipulation therapy, ultrasound, biofeedback, electrical stimulation, movement exercises, and more.

Physical Therapy May Help You Avoid Pain Medications or Surgery

Doctors frequently prescribe opioids for pain management, but these drugs carry a high risk for abuse, which can lead to depression, dependence, addiction, or overdose. Because of the dangers, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends trying safer alternatives like physical therapy before resorting to the use of opioids.

Several studies have found physical therapy to be as effective as surgery for certain conditions, including knee meniscus tears, knee osteoarthritis, non-traumatic rotator cuff tears, spinal stenosis, and degenerative disk disease. In some cases, study participants who received relief with physical therapy did eventually require surgery, but physical therapy can also play a role in post-operative recovery, as well.

Surgery carries more risk than physical therapy, with a complication rate of about 15 percent, half of which may be life-threatening, according to Anthony Delitto, Chair of Physical Therapy at the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh.

Finding a Physical Therapist that Fits Your Needs

Decades of studies have found physical therapy to be a safe, effective recovery approach for many serious conditions. Finding the right physical therapist can help you achieve the level of functional mobility you need to lead a full life.

As you consider working with a physical therapist, there are several important questions to ask.

  • What educational and licensing credentials does the therapist have?
  • How much experience do they have treating your condition? Do they have any specialized training?
  • Are you comfortable as you talk with them? Do you feel they understand your needs?
  • Does the clinic have an inviting atmosphere? Do they use up-to-date equipment?
  • As you tour the clinic either in-person or virtually, do the therapists encourage you to ask questions and learn more?

Physical Therapist Credentials

As of 2015, physical therapists in the U.S. must possess a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree from an accredited physical therapy program and pass their state licensure exam. The Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy administers the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE). Individual states may have additional requirements.

DPT programs take three years and include both classroom and clinical education. Students typically spend about 28 weeks of in-clinic work in the last phase of the program.

Some physical therapists also possess specialty certifications, which require 2,000 hours of clinical practice in a specialty field. Specialties may include geriatrics, pediatrics, women’s health, cardiovascular and pulmonary, neurology, orthopedics, sports, and electrophysiology. Physical therapists must renew their specialty certifications every ten years.

You can search for a licensed physical therapist on the American Physical Therapy Association’s website. All MOTION PT Group therapists are licensed in their respective states.

Comfort and Motivation are Keys to Success

You and your physical therapist are partners in your recovery journey. If you are not comfortable with your PT partner, you may lose the motivation to continue working on your recovery plan.

During an in-person visit, pay attention as you first walk around the physical therapy facility. Notice the atmosphere. Do clients and physical therapists seem at ease with one another? Do you get a positive sense of the manner in which the therapists are interacting with various clients?

Ask the physical therapist to show you how to operate various pieces of equipment. Are they able to explain the purpose and operation of each clearly and confidently?

For in-person and virtual visits, when you meet the physical therapist you will be working with, do they seem approachable and confident? Chat with them about their training and experience working with conditions like yours. Do they seem happy to take the time to answer your questions?

A successful physical therapist should be an excellent communicator, treat each client with dignity and respect, and understand how to keep patients motivated. You are more likely to trust a physical therapist who listens to and addresses your concerns and collaborates with you on setting achievable goals.

If you begin to work with a physical therapist but find you are unhappy with the relationship, request a change. Remember, partnering with a therapist who makes you feel uncomfortable can hurt your recovery.

Check Reviews

Has your doctor or a friend recommended a particular physical therapist? If so, that doesn’t necessarily ensure that you and the recommended therapist will be a good fit. Remember, your relationship with your physical therapist is highly personal, so make sure they are the right match for your temperament, goals, and recovery needs.

You may also want to ask if the physical therapist you are considering has letters or reviews from former clients that you could review. Many physical therapy clinics will post patient reviews on their website. You may also want to check online reviews specific to that physical therapist and clinic.

We Invite You to Consider MOTION for your Physical Therapy Needs

At MOTION, we passionately believe that the greatest chance for long-term recovery happens when the client-physical therapist relationship is based on mutual respect, motivation, and a strong connection. To make sure that happens, we take the time to talk to, listen to, teach, and reassure you every step of the way. To provide some extra time, each session is 40 minutes rather than the industry standard of 30 minutes.

Since 2015, we have provided transformative physical and occupational therapy services to clients of all ages. We are proud to announce the recent addition of our MOTION Post-COVID Recovery Program to our extensive list of services.

Our mission is to improve the lives of every client as we help them get back to what moves them. Guided by our values of compassion, empowerment, integrity, and teamwork, we promise we will not stop until we accomplish our mission.

At MOTION, we believe our relationship with our clients is a partnership. We will teach you how to take what you learn at your physical therapy sessions home so you can continue to strengthen your body, improve your quality of life, and get back to doing what you love quickly and safely. If you are diligent in practicing home therapy as recommended by your physical therapist, you will progress rapidly and increase your chances for long-term recovery.

Once you complete your initial plan of care, stay on track by enrolling in a Wellness@MOTION program at select locations. This program includes annual wellness checkups, certified yoga, custom orthotics, ergonomic assessments, strength and conditioning, and golf performance (TPI) options.

We are proud of what we offer at MOTION, but our current and past clients say it best. Learn more about their stories and their experiences with our physical therapists at MOTION.

Client testimonials

Inspirational stories

Patient recognition week

Contact us for information about MOTION services available near you, or to schedule an in-clinic or telehealth appointment.