Many of the patients we treat come from other physical therapy clinics where they just weren’t making progress towards their goals. There are several reasons that this could be true and the object of this article is not to diminish other clinics or therapists, but to give people seeking Physical Therapy a frame of reference to know if they’re going to the right place.
Allow me to elaborate briefly. To be clear, there are many reasons beyond the skillset of a PT that can determine the quality of care at a clinic. While deductibles are on the rise, it’s important that patients know that those increasing deductibles are not going to your PT, in fact reimbursement rates are on a decline. In many clinics this has resulted in a high volume of patients needing to be seen in order to keep the doors open. While many PTs have great support staff, a lot of the time it’s just not the same when fitting 4-5 people into a one hour slot.
To better be able to determine if a physical therapy clinic is right for you, here are a few key questions to ask when making the determination.
First: Ask yourself what you want to get out of physical therapy. It’s important first know what you expect so you can properly evaluate the clinic. The CrossFit athlete or marathon runner trying to set records is not going to the clinic that is under an orthopedic surgeon’s roof where they see 4-5 patients an hour and focus primarily on surgical rehabilitation, this type of rehabilitation is different than fixing non-surgical issues. There may be PT’s here that can treat the elite athlete, but it’s not what they do every day.
Second: When you call, ask the staff what the most number of patients they book per hour is. Many clinics overbook their time slots and bank on some of the people not showing up to their appointment. This is all well and good for the physical therapy clinic to hedge their bets, but not great for you when all those other people actually show up.
Third: Ask open ended questions to determine if one of the PTs works with people like you. Example: Instead of saying “Do your PTs work with a lot of triathletes?” – you will likely get a soft yes – ask “Which one of your PTs works with triathletes?” Follow up on this by doing your homework, many places have a PT profile on their website.
Fourth: When you are satisfied you’ve chosen the right place, be sure to ask your PT a few questions to make sure you’re not getting cookie cutter treatment. Questions like “why did you pick this exercise?” and “why did you choose sets of 12?” can go a long way in helping you determine if your PT is keyed into your program. There should be a thoughtful answer to each one of these questions.
Fifth: Give it a few sessions. A good PT will be able to make changes within a couple of weeks. If you have been going for two weeks and are experiencing a lack of progress one of two things should happen. (1.) Your PT should be changing the intervention (doing different things than the prior two weeks), or (2.) you should be finding a new PT. The body is complex, and though PT’s can be excellent diagnosticians when determining source and reason for pain, we sometimes miss. The problem arises when we miss and continue to try the same thing over and over (insanity?).
At the end of the day PT is an incredible resource for people with physical pain preventing them from performing activity. To make sure you’re getting the best out of PT you should first be sure that you’re a good fit for the clinic. Are there others like you there? Then observe and make sure that your expectations are being met. You can always switch. We help people like you get better every single day and you might be surprised to know that using your insurance might actually cost you more.