Going to the physiotherapist for the first time? Knowing what to expect and what should be addressed in your first physiotherapy appointment is helpful for managing your expectations, ensuring that your needs are met, and knowing what your role is in the therapeutic alliance with your physiotherapist. Physiotherapy is a collaborative process, and the physiotherapist’s role is to facilitate your recovery. There are a few things that you should come to expect from your first physiotherapy session.
1. Your problem will, most likely, not resolve in one session.
You might wonder, “How many physiotherapy sessions will I need?” That depends. The human body is complex and robust, and quite often, understanding it can take some time. Everyone loves a quick fix, and sometimes this can be achieved, but quite often, recovery can take some time!
Many people have the preconception that a physiotherapist’s job is to “fix” them, but this is not the case. The physiotherapist will help you understand your pain experience, assist you with short-term relief and help reduce pain interference while your body recovers.
2. A diagnosis or an understanding of what is going on
Developing an understanding of pain and dysfunction does not always require a diagnosis. Sometimes, diagnosis can be unnecessary. At other times, diagnosis can be obvious and important. And sometimes, it can take a few physiotherapy sessions to get to a conclusive diagnosis! Rest assured, a physiotherapy management plan can be implemented despite a need for more clarity. Suppose your physiotherapist can rule out serious pathology or injury that requires specific management. In that case, injury management should be personalised to address your aggravating and easing factors and functional limitations. Make sure you leave with an understanding of what is going on- knowledge is power!
3. Pain can be much more complicated than you think.
Pain is multifactorial and a very individual experience. Two individuals with the same injury will often present with very different symptoms, hence why sometimes a diagnosis takes some time. Pain is a complex biological, psychological, and social phenomenon, so it is important to treat the person and NOT the injury. Your physiotherapist should consider the multifactorial nature of your pain and help you understand the cause of your pain.
4. Expect lots of talking
Because pain is such a personal experience, your physiotherapist will ask you a lot of questions during your physiotherapy visit to try and understand you, your lifestyle, your injury, and your individual circumstances that will influence your injury management. This means that a lot of your initial session will be spent talking. A tailored management plan is important for effective injury and pain management. Your physiotherapist needs to know how to implement a management strategy that aligns with the demands of your day-to-day activity and therapy goals.
5. An objective physical assessment
During your physiotherapy appointment, the physiotherapist will assess your injury via an objective assessment. This assessment will include strength and range of motion testing and an evaluation of functional capacity, an analysis of painful movement patterns, and specific tests to rule in or rule out specific diagnoses. This will help establish a baseline upon which to measure your improvement. This process may require you to remove certain clothing items only if you are comfortable doing so.
This process may require the physiotherapist to touch the injured area or surrounding areas to help facilitate testing and objective measures. This assessment may also involve completing questionnaires to help quantify your personal experience of pain and dysfunction.
6. A tailored management strategy
After lots of talking and assessing, your physiotherapist will understand what is going on, and this will help them to tailor a management plan suitable to your needs. Your physiotherapist should provide you with a few options for management and work collaboratively with you to implement the plan. A management plan may include activity modification, exercises, short-term pain management strategies and long-term functionality.
7. Work to do
There is a misconception that a physiotherapist’s job is to “fix” you. This is not really the case! A physiotherapist will help you to understand your pain and or injury, collaborate with you to develop a management plan and help you with implementing that plan.
Physiotherapists can use specific techniques to help with short-term pain management, but, usually, in isolation, manual therapy techniques such as massage, joint mobilisation, dry needling, etc., are insufficient to treat pain and dysfunction.
Your physiotherapist will give you some homework to do and inform you when to visit a physiotherapist again afterwards. The homework may include exercises, activity modifications or pacing strategies, pain management techniques, and lifestyle modifications. You are only with your physiotherapist for a short period. Make sure you know what to do to manage your pain or injury in the other 23 hours of the day to ensure that you make a timely recovery!
Hopefully, this has provided you with a brief insight into what to expect at a physiotherapy appointment. If you need to see a physiotherapist, head into one of our clinics today and get started on your rehabilitation!