Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Do I need a referral to receive physical therapy?
A: No. In Florida and in most states, you can start seeing a physical therapist without a referral from another health care provider. PTs are often already part of your health care team.
Q: How do I find the best PT for my needs?
A: All PTs have different ways of speaking, different personalities, and maybe even different treatment options available. Talking to family members or friends who have had good experiences at PT is a great place to start. You can also use our Find a PT search tool to find PTs near you, and then read the reviews about others’ experiences. PTs can also become board certified specialists, meaning they have specialized in certain areas of treatment. Examples are orthopedics, pediatrics, pelvic health, sports, and neurology. Depending on your needs, you may want to seek out a board-certified specialist.
Just like finding a dentist or a physician, your PT is your option.
Q: How do I find out whether my insurance covers PT?
A: A quick way is to call the phone number on the back of your insurance card. In addition to finding out if you have coverage, you can also find out if you have a limit on the number of times you can go to PT and which PT offices take your insurance.
Q: What should I expect at my first session/evaluation?
A: You should expect a kind, caring physical therapist who takes the time to learn about your specific symptoms and movement problems. After you share your medical history and your concerns that bring you to PT, the physical therapist will ask some more questions to determine what may be causing your symptoms and difficulty with daily activities.
The PT will closely examine how you are moving and take some measurements to determine exactly what treatment you will need during your course of PT care. After all this, the physical therapist will answer any other questions you may have and help you get scheduled for your future appointments.
It is always helpful to wear loose, comfortable clothing for your first visit. If you want to be extra prepared, however, always feel free to call and ask if there is anything they specifically need you to do for your first time.
Q: How often will I need PT?
A: It depends on what you specifically need. Some problems might need a visit or two just get you going. Some may need two-to-three visits each week. In rare cases, you might need more. After your first visit, you and the PT will talk about how often you need to come in for visits.
Q: If I decide to visit a physical therapist for a fall risk assessment, what can I expect to happen during that visit?
A: During a fall risk assessment, a physical therapist will ask you a series of questions to get to know you and your health history. This could include questions about the medications you take and the exercise habits you have. The physical therapist will also ask you to participate in mobility, balance and strength tests to help establish your baseline ability and to track improvements over time. All of the information that the physical therapist gathers is then used to create a comprehensive plan that could include anything from suggesting different footwear, to adding a specific stretch or exercise to your activity routine, to following up with your eye doctor for an updated eyeglasses prescription. If you don’t have an exercise program, the physical therapist will help you design one that meets your fall prevention goals.
Q: How long is each session?
A: The timing is based on what you need, but a good average is about one hour. You can also ask your PT or the clinic staff for a better idea of how long.
Q: What can I expect as part of pelvic PT?
A: Your PT will ask you to complete questionnaires and will also ask you about the symptoms you’re experiencing. Your PT will conduct a physical examination of your body, including your pelvis, to determine what movements are painful, how your muscles respond to being palpated or touched, and how strong your muscles are. Based on the information you provide and the results of the physical examination, your physical therapist will develop a personalized treatment plan that incorporates your goals.
Q: My PT saw me at evaluation, but I have been seeing the PT assistant a lot. Is this normal?
A: A PT assistant (PTA) is a licensed professional who works under the supervision of the PT's plan of care and provides skilled treatment interventions based on the goals that the PT provides. The PT/PTA Team is built on a foundation of collaboration and communication. PTAs provide feedback to PTs on a regular basis to keep the PT informed of a patient's progress. PTs are required to see the patient on every tenth visit to maintain a relationship with the patient and ensure the plan of care remains appropriate.
Q: What type of equipment
will I need?
A: The PT will be able to tell you what equipment you need. In the clinic, they will probably have all of the equipment you will need. There may, however, be some things you need to buy for home. These can be small gym weights, certain shoes or shoe inserts, etc.
Q: How do I know a PTA is competent to treat my condition?
A: PTAs are required to maintain their license by taking the same amount of continuing education courses as the PT. Requirements for the bi-annual renewal consist of 24 credit hours of educational courses that provide current best practice standards to maintain licensure. PTs and PTA can attend the same courses to promote collaboration of current best practice standards for patient care.
Q: What is manual therapy?
A: Most frequently, manual therapy is a physical therapy technique utilized to relax muscles, decrease pain, and restore normal motion through specific hands-on treatments, often including soft tissue work and mobilization/manipulation. For some patients with very acute pain and muscle tension, manual therapy techniques may be the best option to start.
Over the course of the treatment sessions, as the pain and muscle tension normally subside, and there is normally a decrease in the amount of manual therapy techniques being performed and an increase in the amount of exercises/functional activities prescribed by the physical therapist.
Q: What is dry needling?
A: Dry needling is when a physical therapist uses a very thin needle on a patient with trigger points (i.e., small nodules within a muscle that are frequently painful when pressed) to relax muscles, decrease pain, restore normal motion. Some patients experience relief quickly, and find that they are able to move better and with less pain right away.
Like any modality used in physical therapy, the goal of dry needling is to reduce pain so that patients can increase their physical activity and improve their tolerance to daily, recreational, and work activities. Commonly, individuals who have trigger points also have additional physiologic ailments that require different types of physical therapy such as exercise and manual therapy.