By: Audra Stawicki, PT, DPT, CMP, CYI —

Although, patients are most likely are referred to Physical Therapy by their Physician; thanks to the Direct Access Law in Connecticut (in place since 2006) patients can refer themselves to Physical Therapy for 6 visits or 30 consecutive days whichever comes first. However, patients will need to be referred to their Physician if they are not making objective and measurable functional improvements in that time frame.

So you have called the office and set up your first appointment (initial evaluation).

Here is what to expect

Your PT will perform an extensive evaluation regarding the reason you came to Physical Therapy (chief complaint). Physical Therapists (PTs) do not treat disease like Physicians do. PTs treat the impairments that lead to the functional limitations caused by disease. Conditions both acute and chronic are treated; as well as the promotion and support of patients’ overall health and wellness thus preventing decline in function.

Example 1: A patient with osteoarthritis of the neck is referred to Physical Therapy by their Physician. The patient’s chief complaint is loss of neck range of motion (impairment) causing them difficulty when turning their head to view oncoming traffic when driving (functional limitation). 

Example 2: A patient is referred to Physical Therapy after having a right total hip arthroplasty (hip replacement). The patient’s main complaint is weakness of the thigh muscles (impairment) causing difficulty ascending stairs in a normal manner (functional limitation).

A short list of impairments treated by PTs include, weakness, muscle wasting, muscle atrophy, loss of range of motion, stiffness, impaired neuromuscular control, pain, swelling/edema, dizziness/balance deficits and sensory loss.

A short list of functional limitations treated by PTs include bed mobility, transferring (car transfers, chair transfers, wheelchair transfers, and floor transfers), walking (ambulation) with or without assistive devices, stair climbing and navigating the community environment (varied surfaces).

PTs want to know what medication you are taking and about your past medical and surgical history, as that will impact certain treatments available.

Example 1: A patient with severe diabetic neuropathy may not be a great candidate for certain hot and cold modalities due to poor sensation. Thereby risking injury to the tissues where the modality is applied.

Example 2: A patient with osteoporosis may not be an ideal candidate for certain mobilization procedures; yet might benefit from weight bearing versus non-weight bearing exercises to promote bone density.

Of most importance, the PT will ask you: What is your lifestyle like? What do you do for a living? What is your daily routine? What are your hobbies?

The reason for the questioning

In order to treat you in the best possible manner, PTs assess the impairment established during the initial evaluation along with your input to create goals to restore your ability, to resume your lifestyle and hobbies according to your aspirations.

Physical Therapists put the mobility back into your life.

Hope to see you soon at Rehab Concepts Physical Therapy!