Physical therapy is an indispensable resource for patients who seek relief from chronic pain due to injury or surgery. Your first session with your physical therapist is called an initial evaluation. During this session, your physical therapist will spend time with you to learn about your condition, your previous level of function, and how your condition is affecting your life. He or she will then take specific measurements of the impairments that may be causing your problem and put together a treatment plan for you. You will be asked many general questions to determine your overall health and then the questions will become more specific to your condition and your reason for needing physical therapy.

Your physical therapist will test you for flexibility, strength, range of motion, posture and overall mobility to further diagnose the extent of your injury. This initial evaluation will provide a baseline measurement for your physical therapist to gauge your progress.

We suggest that you arrive 10-15 minutes before the start of your first scheduled appointment to complete all required paperwork and registration forms.


To make the best use of your time with your physical therapist, be sure to come prepared with a list of any questions that you have. Write down any symptoms you have been having and for the duration of the symptoms. If you have more than one symptom, begin with the one that is the most bothersome to you. If possible, bring any lab, diagnostic or medical reports from your doctor that may be related to your medical history or who have treated you for your current condition.

Write down key information about your medical history, even if it seems unrelated to the condition for which you are seeing the physical therapist. Your therapist will need a list of all prescription and over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements that you are taking. You should also bring a list of your physicians that you would like your physical therapist to contact regarding your evaluation and your progress. Make a list of any medical conditions of your parents or siblings as this will also be asked during your initial visit.

Write down any important personal information, including any recent stressful events, injuries, incidents or environmental factors that you believe might have contributed to your condition. Do not rely on your memory as you will likely forget some things during the appointment.


When you call to make your appointment, ask whether you should wear or bring a certain type of clothing when you come for your first visit. It is important that you are comfortable. Your session may include stretches and moderate exercise, so dress as if you are going to the gym.

Realize that you may need to lie down or get into difficult positions, so be sure to wear clothing that is easy to move around in. Shoulders-tank tops or a loose T-shirt will allow the therapist to expose shoulder if necessary. If you are suffering a leg or knee injury, be sure to wear shorts or loose pants that can be pulled up over the knee.


Once the interview and assessment portion is completed, your PT will perform a physical examination, focusing on measuring impairments that may be causing your problem or that may be affected by your injury.

Common measurements taken during a physical therapy examination include:

  • Palpation
  • Range of motion (ROM) measurements
  • Strength
  • Mobility and Movement Patterns
  • Balance
  • Flexibility
  • Posture
  • Neurological screening tests

During the examination, your physical therapist should give you clear instructions about what to expect and what to do. Once the exam is complete, you can get started on your treatment plan.


After your examination, your therapist will have a focus for your treatment plan that will start working on pain management and improving your mobility. Your physical therapist should discuss with you the goals of treatment and the expected course of your rehab. Depending on how much time is left, your treatment might begin right after your initial evaluation.

Your treatment will most likely involve the following:

  • Some Hands-on work
  • Therapeutic Modalities, such as ice, heat, or electrical stimulation
  • A Therapeutic Exercise Program
  • Education about Activity Modification
  • Education about a Home Exercise Program, designed individually for you

Exercise is one of your main tools to help you move better and feel better, and it should be one of the main staples of your rehab program. Your PT may also use therapeutic modalities such as ultrasound or electrical stimulation to help manage your pain and improve your muscle function.

By the time you leave your initial visit, you should have a good idea of the plan ahead of you. You will have a schedule as to the number of days per week you need to return, exercises for home, as well as a general idea of the length of time you will likely need therapy.

What if You Have Questions?

The relationship you have with your physical therapist should feel like an alliance in which both of you are working toward the goal of help you to feel and move better. If you have questions about what is happening during your treatment, feel free to ask. Your physical therapist should encourage questions from you and should be able to provide clear, concise answers about your treatments, your condition, and your rehab program.

Your physical therapist is one of the best resources to use if you have an illness, injury, or surgical procedure that limits your functional mobility. But you will only get out of physical therapy what you put in. Physical Therapy can have a huge benefit to your personal health and wellbeing ó so long as you take an active role in getting the most out of your sessions.

Ventura Orthopedics offers years of clinical experience, the latest equipment and a professional staff that is always willing to help you. Call us today at 800-698-1280 to schedule an appointment.

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