Finding the right PT for you

I have had an increasing number of colleagues ask me the following questions: (1) “What physical therapy (PT) clinic do you recommend?” and (2) “which PT should I go to?” Considering all the physical therapy clinics that are readily available in the area, it is an important question to ask. Picking the right PT can influence your prognosis and how soon you recover (and save you money in the long run).  Listed below are some important questions to ask yourself when considering where to go:

1. Is this a practical location?

For most patients, 1-3 visits per week is to be expected. If the location is too far or too difficult to get to (ex. area has a lot of traffic, no parking, etc.), chances are likely that you might not go. If you don’t go you won’t get better. It sounds simple, but some patients give up on PT without trying to go to another convenient location. You should have easy access from home or work (or wherever you are on a daily basis).

2. What type of training has the PT received?

Check to see if the therapist is residency-trained, fellowship-trained or board-certified by the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties (ABPTS). These PTs undergo vigorous training after their doctoral studies, usually 1-1.5 years long. If you see these credentials, chances are they are very good at what they do. PTs can have an alphabet soup after their name, but here are a couple honorable mentions:

-Board-Certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist (OCS)

-Board-Certified Sports Clinical Specialist (SCS)

-Board-Certified Neurology Clinical Specialist (NCS)

-Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopedic Physical Therapy (FAAOMPT) (I know, that’s a mouthful).

There are great therapists who do not have any of these credentials; however, significant time and effort went into these certifications. The majority of them are well-trained in exercise prescription and manual therapy. There are other credentials that exist, but some of them are not as standardized as the ones above. My recommendation is to call the clinic and ask if any of the providers have the aforementioned certifications. If you are looking for certain types of manual therapy treatments, see if they offer dry needling (DN), active release technique (ART), graston, etc.

3. How much individual attention can the PT provide?

This is probably the most important question to ask. Nowadays, there are so many clinics that receive a high volume of patients. They see TONS of patients blocked in 15-30 minute increments. Some patients are double or triple-booked, meaning you might only see the PT for 15 minutes. I have a problem with this, especially early on in a patient’s care. For a patient who is on the tail end of rehab? Sure. For a patient who is halfway through rehab? Maybe. There are various nuances involved, but the PT should be hands-on and actively engaged in your care. The rehab technicians are great at what they do, but they are not trained to see what PTs see. They will assist with exercises and modalities, but the bulk of your care should not be spent with them: it should be spent with a PT.

Additionally, most of the insurance plans that I see have moderately high/high co-pays. The question you must ask yourself is this: do you want to spend your co-pays (and your deductible) on a therapist who spends little time with you? I wouldn’t. You’re paying for the PT’s time, so spend your money wisely and make your money count. If you go online and look at the yelp reviews, many of the negative reviews revolve around the fact that they received very little attention/poor individualized care. While some of the reviews need to be taken with a grain of salt, you don’t want to be in a place that has consistently bad feedback. The clinics with the best reviews are the ones with PTs who provide stellar one-to-one patient care.

4. Do you feel like you can build a solid rapport with the PT? 

This is one of the most important aspects of rehab along with (3). If you have a solid relationship with your therapist, the experience will be more rewarding. You will enjoy the time spent in the clinic if you trust their expertise and are able to relate in some capacity. PT is hard work, but you should not dread going to the clinic. Even more important, if any musculoskeletal issues arise in the future, look no further! If you found a great PT, stick with that person!




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