What should you look for in your Physical Therapist?

So you’ve been dealing with nagging pain that hasn’t gone away on its own even after resting and taking a break from the things you love to do. You’re considering going to see a Physical Therapist, so you look up Physical Therapy clinics near you and dozens of options pop up. Many of them have good reviews on Google and seem great at a first glance, so how do you find the right fit for you?


An easy place to start is calling the clinic and asking to stop by so you can get a first hand look at how the clinic operates. If you’re walking in and see a clinic packed to the brim, you might want to pause and ask why that is. Although a busy clinic might mean they’re good at what they do, it could also be a sign that you won’t get the individual care you need. If they’re utilizing support staff and rehab aides/technicians to help look after clients, it usually means that there’s less time with the Physical Therapist themselves, which means less attention to how you’re performing and responding to your exercises. 

The equipment a clinic has is also an important consideration when deciding where to begin your recovery process. While they could have all the equipment in the world and not know how to use it effectively, you also don’t want to walk in and see a clinic that doesn’t have any equipment at all. Although it’s possible to progress with minimal equipment, you may see better results while also building your confidence by being able to perform your exercises under your Physical Therapist’s supervision. The clinic should have the tools you need to be successful, for a runner that might include a treadmill and the ability to perform a running analysis, or for a gym-goer that could mean a barbell or weight rack. In general you want to be sure that they at least have heavy weights so that they can properly load you up and build your strength and resilience.

 

One-On-One Care:

If you’re looking to make the most out of your time at Physical Therapy, it’s important to find a clinic that revolves around one-on-one treatment. Many clinics utilize support staff such as Physical Therapy aides or rehab technicians to help supervise patients while they perform their exercises. While many of them are good at what they do, they’re often there to help the Physical Therapist balance the sheer volume of patients they’re seeing at the same time. This means less one-on-one time with you and also sharing your time at Physical Therapy with other patients. 

In order to balance having multiple patients at once, these clinics also tend to utilize passive treatments such as heat, ice and electrical stimulation to keep you occupied. While these tools have their time and place in managing symptoms, they can be done on your own time and don’t need the supervision of a PT. These treatments aren’t what will get you back to peak performance, but working with a clinic that takes a more active approach through exercise, movement and education is what will help get you back on the starting line and even past it. 

This is where you want to look for a clinic that centers around one-on-one care for the full session, ideally for 45 minutes to an hour. Having that dedicated one-on-one time allows your PT to spend time understanding your full story, dive deep into the root cause of your problem, and test/retest to ensure you are achieving optimal results. This also means they’re able to assess how you move and perform the motions relevant to your activity, as well as how it ties in to your pain points. From there, they can develop a customized treatment plan to improve your movement capacity and make modifications as needed, as well as discuss with you the best ways to implement and begin this program. Being able to work through these things in the clinic each session means your PT is also able to provide an individualized routine for you to do on your own.

 

Having a PT who understands movement and the demands of your sport or activity:

If you’re trying to return to an active lifestyle, whether that involves running, field sports, or weight lifting, you need a PT who understands the demands of those activities and how to safely progress you to them. If your PT tells you that you should be avoiding those activities for the rest of your life, it might be time to find a new one.

Your Physical Therapist should also be able to create an individualized program that meets you where you’re at currently, and is able to begin bridging the gap to where you want to be. Understanding the endpoint allows them to scale back the movement to what you can currently tolerate and build on it. In doing so, they’re making you a more active participant in your own recovery journey, working off of your input to develop the plan that best suits you.

Another thing to remember is that Physical Therapy only makes up a handful of hours in your week. It’s important that your Physical Therapist is setting you up with a challenging program that you can do independently and consistently. They should also be able to understand and work around the equipment you have access to, as well as how to best work around your schedule and lifestyle. This is the best way to create the long-term changes you’re looking for in terms of strength, mobility, and resilience that will set you up for your journey to peak performance. 

The goal should always be to push you hard in PT so that you’re more than ready to return to the activities you want to do. As we learned from Tim Gabbett’s “Train Smarter and Harder” course, you want to “work hard to fight easy”. Your course of recovery should not just meet the intensity of your goals, but even surpass them in order to prepare you for any scenario that may occur. PT shouldn’t stop when you’ve reached your previous peak, it should help you improve your ceiling and make you more resilient than before. 

 

Certifications and Experience:

Another important consideration when choosing your PT clinic is the certifications and experience the PTs have. You’ve probably seen a variety of letters following the PT’s name, such as OCS (Orthopedic Certified Specialist), CSCS (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist), or COMT (Certified Orthopedic Manual Therapist) to name a few. These paint a small picture into what experience a PT has, showing their specialties as well as their dedication to growth. Many of these certifications require countless hours of learning, training, and practice before being certified by a panel of peers or leaders. Researching the certifications they have can give you a better understanding of whether they’re able to help you best achieve your goals.

A clinic that’s dedicated to growth is also one that’s ultimately dedicated to improving their quality of patient care. Following a clinic’s social media accounts or diving into their website can give you some insight into any courses or certifications their team is taking in order to better themselves as clinicians. Everyone’s always got something more to learn, and your PT is no exception. Here at Perfect Stride, we pride ourselves in hosting a minimum of 3 Continuing Education courses every year from healthcare professionals who are leaders in their respective field and revolutionizing the game. Earlier this year, we hosted Tim Gabbett, an Australian sports-scientist, coach and double PhD who has been changing the way people look at rehab and performance. He taught us how he helps his athletes “Train Smarter and Harder”. 

On the other end, it’s important to remember that taking certifications and courses alone doesn’t make you a great PT, but rather how you use and apply the knowledge gained from them. 

This also isn’t to dissuade you from trusting in a newer or younger PT. All PTs undergo countless hours of internships in a variety of settings in order to prepare them for their time as independent clinicians, and the clinic has also placed their own vote of confidence in that PT by hiring them and trusting them to treat patients. Some clinics may also provide mentorship opportunities for their newer clinicians, where the more experienced PTs set time aside to discuss, teach and review concepts with them to provide another opportunity for growth and allow them to better settle into the flow of treatment.

 

In the end, the biggest determinants for whether a Physical Therapist is the right fit for you are how well they’re able to make you feel listened to and understood, and if they’re able to outline an individualized plan to get you to your goals that takes your circumstances and story into account. The goal with physical therapy should always be to improve your performance, resilience, and confidence so that you can return to the activities you love and be better at them than before. 

 

If any of these things resonated with you and you’re ready to kickstart your recovery journey, contact us (Email: info@perfectstridept.com – Call: 917-494-4284) to schedule a 15-minute discovery call with one of our Doctors of Physical Therapy to determine if we’re a good fit for you and your goals!

 

 

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“I have been to several PT practices over the years, and Perfect Stride deserves five stars. I worked with Vikash, who was knowledgeable and thorough and got me back on my feet – literally! Although I did not work with any of the other therapists, I observed they maintain the same high standard as Vikash. And Austin does a great job of keeping everything running smoothly. I am glad my doctor recommended Perfect Stride!”

5/5

– Brian C

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