With the continued growth of physical therapy practices, learning how to navigate the healthcare system can be a challenge. Doctors will recommend practices based on your needs, and most of the time your experience will turn out great, but that isn't always the case. It’s important for patients to know that they have a say in choosing their physical therapist and it’s important for them to do their research to find a therapist and facility that will fit their needs.
As a patient, what should you be looking for in a physical therapist and practice?
Physical therapy will be a big part of your recovery for weeks or even months and you want to find a location that is convenient to get to, someone that provides appointments that fit your schedule, and one that accepts your insurance.
But convenience is not everything. Seeing as you will be spending a lot of time in this office you also want to make sure you're comfortable there. Taking a tour can help you understand the culture you will be healing in. If you enjoy the atmosphere when touring the clinic then you know that it’s the right place for you.
You also want to find a therapist who has experience working with your injury, or even someone who specializes in it. For instance, if you’re an athlete who tore their ACL, look for a therapist who has worked with other athletes of this nature. If you are having post-partum pain, go see a women's health specialist or pelvic health specialist.
Once you find a therapist how can you be sure they are the right person for you?
You always want to work with a physical therapist that follows best practice guidelines and uses evidence-based research. That means finding someone who makes decisions and uses treatment techniques that are based on sound research and trials. Treatment plans should be created based on the results of valid, reputable studies as well as clinical judgment backed by experience and expertise.
But how do you know if a therapist uses evidence-based research or specializes in your injury? Just ask. Communication is key in your recovery. Any therapist that is dedicated to your care will be more than happy to answer your questions. Don’t be afraid to talk to them about your goals, ask them about a recovery timeline, and define a plan of care that you can understand and easily follow.
Know your role
As important as it is to find a physical therapist that fits your needs, you need to remember that you are also responsible for your recovery. It’s your job to communicate openly, follow their advice, and do your homework. Physical therapy does not start and end at the door, it requires dedication and time spent working on home exercise to help your body recover and reach the goals you are looking for.
Navigating the healthcare system and finding a physical therapist that's right for you doesn't have to be hard as long as you know where to start.