Physical therapist – it’s a term that describes professionals with a variety of different approaches and specialties to alleviate pain and restore full range of movement. Because of this wide variety, it can make finding the right one a bit more difficult. Among the many factors that need to be taken into consideration when looking for a physical therapist that is “right” for you, location is one of them.
It’s not just about how effective they are at achieving results using manual therapy and equipment in some cases – you also should consider how personable the therapist is, especially if you’ll be undergoing a longer-term treatment plan with them.
For anyone looking for the right physical therapist, here are some tips to help narrow down your search.
Determine What Type of Physical Therapist You Need
While physical therapists may have the same base of knowledge, there are some that specialize in some areas, according to VeryWell Health. That means if you have a specific problem that needs to be addressed, you should seek out someone who specializes in it, adds the source.
For example, according to the source you might be able to locate a local physical therapist (PT) that specializes in pediatrics, including children with developmental delays. Others might be experts in back/neck pain, while others could be more focused on hand/wrist therapy to help patients after injuries or surgery, it adds.
Make Sure The PT is Properly Certified
No matter what type of PT you decide on, you have to make sure they have the credentials to back them up, says the American Physical Therapy Association (ChoosePT). The source says although you have the right to choose your own PT, if you’re referred for treatment you should double-check you’re dealing with a licensed therapist.
Those who are qualified will either hold a PT or DPT (doctor of physical therapy) title, it explains. There’s also a FAPTA (Fellows of the American Physical Therapy Association) designation that indicates they’re a qualified PT, it adds. Specialists may have additional professional designations such as CCS (cardiovascular and pulmonary certified specialist), PCS (pediatric certified specialist), or WCS (women’s health certified specialist), it adds.
Visit Local Clinics as Part of Your Search
You should first determine what the clinic specializes in and whether it’s a good fit for you – for example, it might be focused on athletics, notes BetterPT.com. This is a step that you might be able to narrow down just from doing a local online search and reading clinic bios. (This can also be a good time to see if they allow online booking, which is a convenience).
While you can do some online searching and reading of reviews as part of your selection process, there’s nothing quite like the “feel” you get when you walk into a clinic, it adds. Did you feel welcomed by the front desk when you walked in? Did they ask you specific questions about your needs? Were they willing to work within your schedule? Do they offer private treatment rooms? These are all important considerations.
Ask If They Deal With Your Insurance Company
When touring local PT clinics, it’s also an opportunity to find out if they will work with your insurance company for coverage. ChoosePT explains that “most” insurance plans will cover physical therapy that is deemed medically necessary.
Between the clinic and the insurance company, you should be able to determine your coverage, as well as any out-of-pocket expenses to expect. The source notes you can go “out of network” to find a therapist of choice, but in most cases that will mean paying more up front.
Get a Realistic Treatment Timeline
The goal of seeing a PT is to recover to where you were prior to getting the therapy. But if your PT seems to want to start the rehabilitation process without assessing your goals and laying out a timeline to achieve them, it could be a red flag.
A realistic timeline could be 6-weeks or 12-weeks, and your PT should assess how you’re doing each visit in reaching your goals, says SELF. “If you’re not making progress toward that goal, then you need to pivot,” warns the source. It could mean your time is not being respected otherwise.
Look For ‘Soft Skills’
When choosing a PT, you’ll want to make sure they’re up to date with the latest techniques in the industry – that includes being effective with manual therapy skills to complement stretching and other exercises – and can also help diagnose your issue.
However, you will also want to find a PT that is easy to talk to, and keeps you informed about the process. You should able to trust them and feel safe in their presence – in other words, you should feel comfortable during each visit. “Treatment often involves wearing just a sports bra and shorts, so keep that in mind when you’re choosing a doctor if you know that’s something that would affect your decision,” notes SELF.
Ask Your Doctor For Suggestions
If you’re stuck while during your own research and don’t have anyone close to you that can recommend a good PT, you can ask the advice of your doctor (keep in mind you do not need a doctor’s referral to start physical therapy – although it could be a requirement of some insurers).
Oftentimes, doctors will have knowledge of some PTs in the area, and likely have heard a lot of feedback about them from other patients. They might be able to steer you in the right direction depending on your needs.
Do Your Homework
We don’t just mean doing your research to find a suitable PT near you. We mean that a good PT suggests exercises to do at home and elsewhere outside the office that can help your recovery, says SELF.
These can be “a series of movements, like stretches – to further build on what you did at the office,” notes the source. Make sure you follow the instructions from your PT on what you should be doing at home to become an active part of your own treatment, it adds.