If you’ve suffered a stroke or sports injury, have muscle or joint pain, are recovering from surgery or simply want to improve your balance, strength and mobility, your doctor may have recommended physical therapy for you.

Important questions to ask when seeking physical therapy…

Do you specialize in my condition? Some physical therapists (PTs) do a little bit of everything, while others specialize in orthopedics, neurology, sports or geriatrics. Ask about your PT’s areas of expertise to be sure you’ll be working with someone who is very familiar with your condition.

Will I see you each time? Some clinics have a large staff of PTs, which means you’ll see whoever happens to be working that day. If you think you would prefer the continuity of a one-on-one relationship, be sure to ask about this.

Do you accept my insurance? Don’t assume that a referral from an in-network doctor means that the visits are covered by your health insurance. Many PTs don’t accept insurance and expect to be paid at the beginning of each session.

Are you licensed? Some clinics use “extenders,” assistants who have some training in physical therapy but aren’t experts. Make sure that you’ll be seeing a PT who is licensed by the state where you live.

When will the treatments relieve my pain? Pain relief—with exercises, ultrasound, electrical stimulation, etc.—is one of the main goals of physical therapy. If you have pain, ask the therapist when you can expect to see improvements.

How long will I need physical therapy? It will depend on your condition as well as your level of commitment—and the limits set by your insurance company. Typically, the condition necessitating physical therapy can be resolved in six to 12 sessions.

What should I wear to my physical therapy appointment? Find out what your PT recommends based on your condition and the typical temperature in the facility where you’ll be treated.

What should I stop doing that could be aggravating my condition? In some cases, certain exercises and/or habitual movements or postures worsen the condition you’re treating. Get your PT’s advice on this so you can avoid these things.

Are there any accommodations I need to make at home (or work) to help ease my pain? Your PT can recommend basic steps and/or products that may help improve your symptoms. These might include adjustments to your work station and/or ways to position your seat when driving. Ask so you can do everything possible to help yourself.

Will you be keeping my doctor apprised of my progress? Most PTs do progress reports that they share with the doctor who made the referral. Ask about this to be sure that your care will be coordinated.

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