FAQs

We understand that you may have many questions about physical therapy and how to get started with your recovery or wellness plan. Below we have answered the top 25 questions we are often asked regarding physical therapy. We are always available by phone or email to answer your questions as well.
What does a Physical Therapist (PT) do?

Physical therapists are “Movement-Scientists” often referred to as “PTs.” They can teach patients how to prevent or manage their condition so that they will achieve long-term health benefits. Physical therapists examine each individual and develop a plan, using treatment techniques to promote the ability to move better, reduce pain, restore function,and prevent disability.

What setting do Physical Therapists practice in?

Physical therapists provide care for people in a variety of settings, including hospitals,private practices, outpatient clinics, home health agencies, schools, sports and fitness facilities, work settings and nursing homes.

Can I choose what Physical Therapist I go to?

Absolutely! The decision of where you receive treatment is yours. If you have a specific therapist or practice you would like to go to, you should let your doctor or insurance company know this. Not all physical therapists or practices are the same and the choice of your provider is yours. Sometimes your physician will recommend a specific therapist or practice to you. You always have the right to ask for a specific provider.

Do I need a referral to come to Physical Therapy?

NO – In the state of Florida, a referral from a physician is not required to receive a physical therapy evaluation or treatment. Patients can access physical therapy services through a process known as “direct access”.

What is “Direct Access”?

Direct access allows patients to be seen for the initial evaluation and then to be treated for combined total of 30 days without a prescription from a physician or physician extender. At the end of the 30 day period, if further physical therapy services are necessary, a prescription from a physician/physician extender would be required. Although most insurance carriers will provide coverage for physical therapy services provided to a patient utilizing direct access, some may not as policies vary from carrier to carrier. Some exceptions do occur. You should call your insurance company to determine whether or not you are required to have a referral for coverage.

What paperwork will I need?

New patient forms are required to be filled out prior to meeting with your physical therapist, forms usually include questions about demographics, past medical history,current medical history, medications, diagnostic tests and past surgeries. Others required forms will be a consent to treat, a medical release and notice of HIPAA. You may need to fill out additional forms that are more particular to your condition. Usually a notice of cancellation policy will be included too. Forms are often available on the clinic’s website to fill out ahead of your visit. If not arrive to your appointment 10-15 minutes prior to your scheduled visit time. Copies of your driver’s license and insurance card (if applicable) are required as well, so bring those to your first visit.

What is HIPAA and PHI?

HIPAA: Acronym that stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Is a US law designed to provide privacy standards to protect patients’ medical records and other health information (PHI) provided to health plans, doctors, hospitals and other health care providers. PHI stands for Protected Health Information and is any information in a medical record that can be used to identify an individual, and that was created, used, or disclosed in the course of providing a health care service, such as a diagnosis or treatment.

What should I expect on my first visit?

On your first visit, the physical therapist will perform a thorough evaluation lasting approximately 45-60 minutes. This includes a detailed history, postural assessment, gait assessment, neurological screening, and other tests and measures to gain a more specific understanding of your condition. Your physical therapist will use the information obtained from your evaluation to formulate a clinical judgment as to your prognosis and appropriate treatment intervention. A rehabilitation program or a “Plan of Care” will be developed based upon the problems identified and your personal goals.

What is a Physical Therapy “Plan of Care”?

Following your physical therapy evaluation and review of goals, your physical therapist will prepare a written plan of care. The “Plan of Care” or your “Treatment Plan” will guide your treatments following your initial exam. The plan of care contains, at minimum, the following information: diagnoses, long term treatment goals, and type, amount, duration,and frequency of therapy services.

What is “Manual” Physical Therapy?

This is a term to describe treatment that is performed mostly with your hands. Manual therapy techniques are used to address tissue mobility, range of motion, flexibility, to decrease pain, and to increase strength. During a physical therapy treatment session,manual therapy is often combined with prescribed therapy exercise and other modalities.

What is a treatment “Modality”?

A modality is an adjunct to a treatment plan, usually to increase circulation or reduce muscle spasms, pain, inflammation and swelling. Types of modalities include electrical,thermal or mechanical energy that causes physiological changes. Typical types of modalities include electrical muscle stimulation, ultrasound, heat, ice, and traction.

What is “Ultrasound”?

High frequency sound waves that is absorbed into soft tissue up to 2-5 cm in depth.Used for deep tissue heating by increasing blood flow for relaxing muscle spasm and preparing soft tissue for stretching. Ultrasound is used to bring in nutrients, carry waste away, decrease inflammation and promote healing.

What is “Electrical Stimulation”?

Use of different forms of electrical current through electrodes placed on your skin that cause muscles to contract or relax, for relief of muscle spasms, pain and swelling or for muscle re-education and strengthening.

What is “TENS”?

TENS stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation. TENS units use low voltage electrical current through electrodes placed on your skin over the area of pain. The stimulation overrides the sensation of pain while the unit is on and for a period of time following use.

Why use Moist Heat?

Moist heat produces a deeper heat than a dry heating pad. Moist heat is used to increases circulation, reduces swelling, relaxes muscles and soft tissue. Moist heat is often applied to an area prior prior to stretching or to prepare an area for other treatments. Moist heat is often used when the patient is unable to tolerate and active warm up.

Why use Cold/Ice?

Use of “ice packs” or “ice massage” for acute injuries and for pain relief (acute or chronic). Ice reduces swelling, inflammation and muscles spasms. Ice is often used post treatment or between treatments to assist with pain management.

What is a “Home Exercise Program (HEP)”?

Your physical therapist will usually prescribe an HEP to compliment your physical therapy treatment program. Your HEP is your “Therapy Homework” to assist with progress towards your goals. Your HEP may be a combination of exercises, stretches, mobilization techniques and use of home modalities. Compliance with your HEP is key!

How many times a week do you usually attend physical therapy?

Your treatment plan is dependent on what is found upon evaluation by the physical therapist. Treatment plans can vary from 1x/week to 3x/week but the typical frequency would be 2 – 3x/week for 45-60 minute sessions. Treatment frequency will depend on goals of treatment and overall patient goals. Treatment plans consider stage of recovery.Often frequency may be more visits per week in beginning of care and decrease as goals are being met.

What should I wear?

Wearing loose fitting clothing will make it easier for the therapist to evaluate and treat you. Bring or wear shorts for leg problems (hip, knee, ankle, and foot). Sweatpants are appropriate for lower back problems. A loose t-shirt is preferable for neck, shoulder, and arm problems.

Why should I choose a Private Practice Physical Therapist?

Some physical therapy clinics are owned by physician groups and large corporations. They often service a higher volume of patients at one time. Leading to reduced one-on-one time with your physical therapist, therefore overall requiring more treatment sessions to achieve goals. Often larger practices have a larger staff. Your care may be shared amongst personal. Decreased continuity of care may delay progress towards goals.

Can a Physical Therapist make a diagnosis?

In most states, physical therapists cannot make a medical diagnosis but rather what is referred to as a “Functional Diagnosis” or a “PT Diagnosis” that will guide treatment. A medical diagnosis is something that your medical doctor will provide for you. A “PT diagnosis” which encompasses the patient’s functional limitations resulting from their physical impairment.

Can a Physical Therapist order diagnostic tests?

Depends on Physical Therapy State Practice Act. Most states physical therapists practicing outside the military are unable to order tests. A medical physician, chiropractic physician or a physician extender can order diagnostic tests.Is

Is Physical Therapy painful?

Overall, physical therapy techniques facilitate movement which is necessary for pain relief. In some cases, physical therapy techniques can be painful. For example, recovering knee or shoulder range of motion after shoulder surgery, may be painful. Your physical therapist will utilize a variety of techniques to help maximize your treatment goals. It is important that you communicate the intensity, frequency, and duration of pain to your PT so they can make adjustments.

What is the difference in treatment provided by a Physical Therapist Vs. Chiropractor?

While a physical therapist and a chiropractor perform many of the same techniques, their approach to restoring movement in the spine can be different. Physical therapist often use mobilization techniques to improve motion in one or more segments of the spine. Often to a greater degree your physical therapist will focus treatment more on manual techniques to address the neuromuscular system and on stabilization exercises to maintain mobility. A chiropractor is able to perform a joint manipulation, using a higher degree of force to restore range of motion. Chiropractic care and physical therapy can compliment each other in treatment of spinal problems.

What education does a Physical Therapist have?

Well that depends on how long they have been practicing physical therapy. The level of education required to practice physical therapy has continued to increase over the last 20years. Now, a professional (entry-level) physical therapist education programs in the United States only offer the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree to all new students who enroll. The Master of Physical Therapy (MPT) and Master of Science in Physical Therapy (MSPT) degrees are no longer offered to any new students in the United States.To practice as a physical therapist in the US, you must earn a physical therapist degree from a CAPTE – accredited physical therapist education program and pass a state licensure exam. Aside for degrees, many PTs have post-entry level clinical certifications.

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