What To Expect In Physical Therapy

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Welcome to Physical Therapy- the land of resistance bands!!! Physical Therapists love resistance bands!

1. What to wear:

  • Workout clothes. Specifically something easy to move in. Regardless of what your specific injury is, the main goal of physical therapy should be to get you back to “normal” movement. So lots of fun/painful movements.

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The way my physical therapy works is that I spend the first 10 minutes doing a warm-up, an hour of stretching and core work and another hour of being worked on by a physical therapist.

  • Workout shoes. My physical therapy place has has a no-shoes policy on the massage beds. So I wear my Vibram Five Fingers, because they are easy to take off and slip back on as I am moving around the room doing various exercises. But wearing proper workout shoes is a good idea so you don’t trip or slip while exercising.

For one appointment I was rushing from class and had a pair of TOMS on, I totally slipped while doing wall squats.

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  • Easily removable/non baggy clothes.  Some physical therapists are more hands on than others so usually at the end of your session you will get some work done on the site of your injury.

So it’s important to wear something that allows the therapist to work on that part of the body. With my back I can easily lift up my shirt, I have seen other people with shoulder/ knee issues roll up clothes or remove them fully (males).

I also suggest wearing something a bit form fitting. I was wearing a loose/baggy top in my last PT session, and my PT was having a hard time observing my form because of the way my top was. Good form is key!

2.  What is a normal PT session like?

I have been to two different PT practices over the past 4 years and have only noticed slight variations. So I assume things are the same for most other places.

  • Initial consultation-the first appointment is generally a overall check-up just to get an initial assessment of how things are. Typically you start your therapy in the sessions after that.

Both of my first appointments involved a lot of questions, pushing, poking and moving. Get excited!

  • Time commitment

Typically PT runs 2-3 times a week depending on your specific needs, and for me personally each appointment takes about two hours total. Additionally, I have exercises and stretches to do at home so that adds on an extra hour a day.

  • The actual PT session

For the most part you will be working with a PT aide, for doing your exercises. The PT will mainly come around afterwards to see how you are doing and to work on you a bit. In the previous PT place I went to, everyone was assigned an aide who watched you do every single exercise. The place I go to now has aides that mainly walk around the room and check off your exercises as you do them. It’s very independent, but I always feel comfortable asking for help if I need it.

3.  Advocate for your own care.

My previous PT stint was not so successful, I felt worse after each appointment and I quit after 3 weeks to reevaluate my injury with my surgeon. This time around I am actually feeling a lot better and my PT is very hands on. I secretly enjoy PT just for the nice massage I get at the end.

4. Heat or Ice

After the nice massage/ stretching you will either get some heat or ice. I get heat and I usually close my eyes for 10 minutes and nap.

But you don’t have to always get heat or ice, I only opted out of it once, when I was feeling awesome.

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Moist heat.

5. Awkwardness

If your PT is as hands on as mine is, it is a good idea to become friends just to decrease the awkwardness as you are doing the stretches. Just picture this:

Me flat on my back with my leg straight up in the air, my PT is kneeling on the bed with my foot resting on her shoulder.

I am sure my PT just loves having spent all those years of grueling studying just to have my toes awkwardly close to her face.

But since we are chatting away about life and other things, it’s less awkward and I don’t notice the pain of my sciatic nerve stretching.

Also are you guys familiar with this stick thing?

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[Source]

Usually when my PT uses it on my legs, it just hurts and I just squish up my face. But for some reason, last session when my PT was using it on my upper thighs, I got the giggles. I was laughing so hard I could not even make it stop.

Awkward.

Any other PT questions I can answer?

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