What to Expect on Your First Visit?
1. Arrive early
You will be asked to arrive 15 minutes before your first visit to fill out forms. These forms will ask for your contact information, health concerns, and previous injuries. If you have extended health benefits, the clinic may be able to direct bill the insurance company. Ask the administrative staff if your insurance provider can be direct billed and bring in your insurance card to your first visit. Even though you can directly access a physiotherapist, some insurance companies require a doctor referral. Please check with your insurance provider. You also may be asked to complete a questionnaire to help the physiotherapist understand your concerns.
2. What to wear
It is important to wear comfortable, loose clothing that allows the therapist access to your area of injury. You can bring clothes to change into for the appointment if needed. For example; if your area of concern is your shoulder, it is best to wear a tank top, sports bra or muscle shirt.
3. Meeting your physical therapist
Your first visit will usually take about an hour and will vary depending on the area of injury. With your consent, the physical therapist will ask questions about your pain. It’s best to be honest about the pain or dysfunction that you’re experiencing. The physical therapist will also look at how you move (e.g. “Lift your arms overhead”), do strength tests, and look at how you walk, for example. Your physical therapist will also look at areas around the pain, so if your neck hurts, your physical therapist may look at your shoulders and back. Any information about your pain you share will give your physical therapist good information. Don’t try to silently endure pain; let your physiotherapist know if something hurts during the assessment.
4. Diagnosis and follow up
At the end of the assessment, your physical therapist may give you a physical diagnosis. You can ask questions like “How long do you think it will take for me to get better?” Your physical therapist will also let you know that it is normal if you are sore after the assessment for a day or so, and you may also feel tired immediately afterwards. They will also propose a treatment plan based on your goals.
5. Your recovery
The assessment may end with some treatment to start your recovery. You can consent or decline to any treatment that is proposed. To achieve best results, you will need to do your part in recovery. Just like working out and taking care of yourself, schedule in time to regularly perform any home exercises recommended by your physical therapist.
TO SUM UP YOUR FIRST PHYSIOTHERAPY VISIT:
- Arrive early to fill out forms
- Expect to be there for about an hour
- Wear comfortable, loose clothing that allows access to area of injury
- Be prepared to do movement tests that may hurt
- It will be normal to be sore for a day after your assessment
- You will be given a plan on what treatment will be provided and timeframe for recovery
- Expect homework to be given to assist with and speed up recovery
Ultimately, physical therapists empower you to help you achieve your goals.
Kerry Kittson Physiotherapist
PFC and CPA Awards Manager, Canadian Physiotherapy Association, Physiotherapy Foundation of Canada
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