The right Physical Therapist can make an incredible impact on your health.
The wrong Physical Therapist can waste a lot of your time and money and can potentially lead you to get unnecessary testing, injections or even surgeries because you aren't seeing the results that you want and that would be the perceived next logical step in your care.
There are a lot of very skilled physical therapists available. However, I have found that people do not have a proper filter to identify who is right for them or they use the wrong criteria to decide who to see.
I have comprised a list of "do's" and "dont's" that can hopefully help guide you to making the right decision for yourself.
Settle on closest to home
Confine search to "in-network"
Blindly follow doctor's referral (unless strong recommendation)
Rely on a PT that is only treating affected joint
Limited face-time with PT
Majority of session is passive modality (stim, ice/heat, ultrasound, traction, etc)
Cookie cutter treatment plan
Do the same thing over and over and expect different results
PT has thorough assessment
Be prepared to invest in your health
Value high-quality referrals
Treating root cause of injury
1-on-1 or ample face-time
Emphasizes active approach
Specific plan in place based on assessment
Are you getting better?
These lists are meant as a guide, and are not all-encompassing. Some are more of a caution flag than a sign to turn and run away.
Is it possible that there is a high skilled PT two blocks from your apartment? Absolutely.
Is it possible that a PT can see more than one person an hour and still be someone I would send my parents to? Without a doubt.
Is it possible to be both highly skilled and be in-network with insurance? Sure is!
However, as the patient, if you are using some of these criteria as the deciding factor in where you choose to seek care, you are searching for the wrong things.
Remember, this is your body. Your health. Your time. Your money.
Ask the right questions. Know what differentiates a healthcare professional who has your best interests in mind and has the skills to help you reach your goals from someone who treats every patient the exact same way.
If your physical therapist does not have a consistent re-assessment process (I do some level of one every session), how does he know if they plan he/she set is working? What other performance indicators are being taken into account other than just pain levels?
Appreciate that there are better options out there for you if you are doing the same exact routine of ice, stim, massage, ultrasound and hot pack for 24 visits and wondering why nothing is changing.
You are putting your time, money, body and faith on the fact that the person you are seeing is an expert in their field and that all physical therapists are created equal.
Likability is important. Being referred by someone is valuable. Having flashy technology is cool. But at the end of the day, you should base your decisions on outcomes. Are you any closer to your goals now than you were before you saw this person? If the answer is no, you should highly consider looking for alternative options.
Finding the right physical therapist can be tricky. Hopefully, you can take this information and make the best informed decision for yourself. You only have one body to work with for your entire life, it deserves better.