Making the most of physical therapy

Making the most of physical therapy

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Guest post by Ken Caldwell, PT, DPT, CSCS

Many people strive to live an active, healthy lifestyle, but even minor injuries can get in the way of that goal. The good news is most people don’t have to live with a nagging injury that slows them down. Physical therapy is becoming more mainstream as a treatment option for minor injuries to help control pain and restore function.

Most patients start with visiting their family doctor or a specialist, and that doctor may then write them a prescription for physical therapy to address the issue. Some physical therapists treat a wide variety of patients, while others specialize in specific areas, such as pediatrics (children) or geriatrics (older adults). Talk to your doctor and explore your options for physical therapists in your area.

Here are some quick tips for first-time physical therapy patients.

Wear loose-fitting, comfortable clothing

Physical therapy involves movement, so you need to be able to move easily during a therapy session. If you’re coming straight from work, you may need to bring a change of clothes with you.

Be aware of your pain tolerance

Many people have some fear or anxiety about physical therapy being painful, and it certainly can be uncomfortable at times. Some patients may need to take pain medication prior to physical therapy to help lessen the discomfort. If your doctor recommends a prescription pain medication, which may cause sedation or impaired reaction time, be sure to have a driver to take you home. Physical therapy isn’t always painful, but it can be uncomfortable for some patients.

Bring a list of medications plus any meds you might need

While physical therapists do not prescribe medication, some medications can affect the therapy process, so it’s helpful to bring a current list of your prescription and over the counter medications. Also, if you have a medication you might need during physical therapy, be sure to bring that as well. For example, a patient with asthma should bring their inhaler to therapy sessions in case it’s needed.

Bring a copy of your x-rays or other diagnostic tests

If you’ve had x-rays or other scans, such as an MRI, done on the area of concern, bring a copy of those tests with you to your first physical therapy appointment. It may be beneficial for your physical therapist to see the tests and any physician notes related to the injury or area of concern.

Choose the best therapy time

Physical therapy requires both physical and mental energy from the patient. Some patients feel better in the morning, while others feel better in the evening. It’s important to schedule your physical therapy sessions during a time of day that’s best for you in terms of energy level and overall schedule.