I recently saw an article by a physical therapist named Erson Religioso, DPT regarding what a physical therapy evaluation should be (link). He outlines what the setting, time frame and what the patient should experience. I couldn’t agree more with his article and I think it is important for patients to have expectations regarding when they go to physical therapy.
From the patient’s perspective, there are 4 important components of a good evaluation.
1 on 1 time: Patients should expect to have 1 on 1 time with a PT. If the PT is scattered between several different tasks, it is a sign that you may not get the care that you need. This is particularly true for the 1st visit.
Active Listening: The therapist has to be actively listening to determine the origin of the pain and how it is impacting the patient’s life. The patient needs to be able to provide a background and talk about his or her experience with the problem. At times, the physical therapist has to direct the conversation but patients also need to have a chance to tell their story.
Clear Communication: As the article I linked notes, the patients should have an explanation of why they are in pain, what type of treatments will help and the prognosis. Also, the physical therapist must be able to clearly communicate how to do exercises and explain things at a level that patients will understand.
Home exercise program: At the time of the evaluation, a very simple exercise is necessary to begin addressing problems and decreasing pain. This first version of the exercises should be simple and realistic. The patient comes to the evaluation expecting results and the sooner the process begins the better.
Physical therapy is a very interactive and personal experience. You need to find a physical therapist that you can communicate and problem solve with. A patient must see elements of a person that they can work with from the time they walk in the front door. You should be wary of PT’s and clinics that do not demonstrate these traits at the first visit.
At Siskiyou PT , we pride ourselves in providing a thorough and personal evaluation and continuing that throughout the patient’s entire treatment.