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15 Things To Know Before You Hire Your Next Physical Therapist
We read the reviews in picking the best appliance, ask our friends for the best salon, search the internet to guide us in picking our next vacation, but we often rely on our doctors or insurance to find a physical therapist when we need their services. A doctor referral might not be serving your best intention because doctors potentially may have vested interests if they own the practice or they have special agreements to places they want you to go. Medical insurances are all about cutting costs, saving money for more profits and reducing reimbursement rates. These affect the consumers negatively because the quality of care will go down. Read further to know exactly what to look for before choosing the right physical therapist that can make a difference in your life.
1. Hands on
The manual skills of a PT are invaluable. These consist of massage, mobilizations and myofascial release that help restore muscles and joints before it’s safe to perform exercises. Make sure you ask if they perform these techniques before signing up or you might end up wasting your time.
2. Direct one-on-one
It is rare to get a Physical Therapist that spends an hour with you for treatments. Of all the things that has gone awry in your body, it is just right that enough time will be spent to address the condition. The reality is, you are seen in the clinic and are getting unskilled time by utilizing a heating pad, letting you exercise on machines and spend time with less trained staff. Sad but true.
3. Specialized – A generalist PT cannot treat you with the same level of expertise from another PT whose career was built on treating specific conditions. An example is a PT specializing in back pain who will have superior outcomes than a PT who treats sports injuries.
4. Continuing Education – Physical Therapists hone their skills and knowledge by attending quality seminars that sharpen their diagnostic skills and decision making. A PT with certifications on his belt definitely is a good sign that he loves to pursue growth and excellence.
5. Holistic – We are treated where we hurt, but more often than not, the source of pain has been elsewhere. A therapist who treats with a mindbody approach and integrating the intimate connection of our body parts will have more success in treating a problem. Ask a lot of questions and know if your shoulder pain is connected to your back pain. It doesn’t hurt to ask and you get to observe how the therapist thinks.
6. Listener – “Doctor, listen to the patient, he is telling you the answer.” This is a perfect quote about why your PT must take the time in obtaining your history relevant to the problem. Allow your PT to personally ask all the questions necessary to uncover the root of the problem.
7. Title – You will hear physical therapists proudly marketing themselves as doctors of physical therapy. The title is granted to them upon graduation from an accredited PT school. Former graduates obtain the title by complying with the required credits to make the transition. You will see physical therapy websites promoting their physical therapists as doctors. The title is totally good, but be aware that it does not mean they are better than their colleagues who have a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree. The way to judge a good physical therapist is by their personality, specialized clinical skills and years of experience.
8. Team Player – Physical Therapists now have the ability to see clients directly without seeing a physician. They are experts in diagnosing musculoskeletal problems. A specialized physical therapist will be able to determine if the condition presented by the client is outside the scope of practice. It is important that he can guide you to the right medical professional that can further assist you. It is terrible if the physical therapist will keep seeing you without making due progress and even worse if he discharges you without a referral to another expert that can better diagnose and treat your condition.
9. Certifications – A physical therapist who has gone to be certified in their chosen specialty is a good sign of a quality physical therapist. A certification is an achievement of reaching a level of expertise in a certain body of knowledge. An example is a PT with a Mckenzie certification, which means the clinician is an expert in diagnosing mechanical problems occurring in the spine. A PT certified in manual trigger point therapy is an expert duly accomplished and recognized to perform dry needling safely to the clients. Don’t hesitate to ask what those letters mean after a therapist’s name.
10. Teacher – Physical therapists are leaders in treating the spine, muscles and joints. The treatments provided in the clinic can fall short and will have temporary relief if the physical therapist fails to appropriately educate the client about the problem. Education related to coping strategies and activity modification is as important as the treatment itself. The key is to explain and teach concepts in the simplest way as clients are often overwhelmed if there are too much medical jargon. Compliance with a home exercise program is poor when the patient does not understand the rationale behind them. Learn as they teach and they teach so you understand.
11. Diagnosis – Physical Therapists typically gets a medical prescription with a written diagnosis of the problem. Please know that the medical diagnosis is an opinion of a physician but should never be the sole basis for the plan of care created during therapy. Surprised? Shocked? All imaging results and medical diagnoses will merely support and confirm what the physical therapist will find during a physical therapy evaluation and ongoing treatment sessions. A physical therapist will come up with a list of problems during the evaluation and the treatments will be tailored based on the examination and patient interview. You will receive better results with this approach and it will potentially support or not support the medical diagnosis. The physical therapist is required to send a written communication of the findings and planned treatments with your primary physician as required by the state practice acts of Physical Therapy.
12. On-going testing – A physical therapist ideally should approach your session with testing-treating-retesting method. This approach means the PT is doing an objective testing to measure and determine the state of your problem followed by a treatment technique and then perform the same test again to know if you have made any improvements. A session tailored in this manner is time well spent and produce better outcomes.
13. Availability – A physical therapist who is truly dedicated to your care is open to different ways of communication to assist the client with their questions and concerns. Email, text messaging or phone call within 24 hours is reasonable. This is a dependable sign that your therapist is not overwhelmed and swamped and runs a practice of quality care, not quantity care.
14. Personality – You see a physical therapist for treatments more frequently than a doctor. It is significant that your therapist possesses a good nature and disposition, respectful, jovial, courteous and sincere. Let your instinct guide you and find out if you are being treated as a person and not a number on their schedule.
15. Niche – The more specialized the clinic is, the better. A physical therapist practicing in a specialty clinic has superior knowledge for their specific specializations. A myofascial pain physical therapist is an expert in understanding fibromyalgia more than a sports physical therapist who specialize in sports injuries. An orthopedic physical therapist is excellent in treating post-surgical clients while a PT who deals with the spine every day should be your choice for back and neck pain.
I hope this brief guide has fully educated you in finding the right physical therapist that can make a whole lot of difference in your life. It is our intention that you find a treating PT who advocates only for your best interests and assist you in resolving your problems. Remember, it matters who you see and what they know based on their background and experiences. Good luck!