What is physical therapy?  And, how is it different from chiropractic care, massage therapy, or personal training?

Physical therapy is rehabilitative care, with the goal of returning a patient to his/her prior level of function before an injury, accident, or surgery.  Physical therapists are specifically trained, with a medical background, to evaluate and assess for movement dysfunctions, often the causes of pain, resulting in decreases in functional status. The goal of a physical therapist is to provide treatment involving manual therapy techniques to help restore a patientís flexibility, range of motion, as well as aiding in pain control, along with education and exercise training to enable a patient to be actively involved in taking care of his/her own physical well-being for the future. 


Chiropractic care usually consists of manual techniques done to the patient, where the patient has a minimal active role in maintaining clinical gains.  Massage therapy relieves muscle and soft tissue pains but also does not enable the patient to be independent in their long-term success.  Personal training involves instruction on stretching and strengthening exercise, more often appropriate for the generally healthy person who is seeking muscle toning or weight management goals.


How do I get physical therapy treatments?

The state of California requires patients to get a referral from their physician, so that they are first medically evaluated and deemed appropriate for physical therapy.  With a physicianís referral, patients have the freedom of choice to seek care from any physical therapist of their choice.  However, be aware of your health insurance coverage on physical therapy services.  Often, there are deductibles, co-payments and/or limitations on the number of physical therapy visits that you are allowed for the current calendar year.  You may be able to self pay for physical therapy services at a lower cost than by billing through your insurance policy.


What happens at my first physical therapy visit?

Your first physical therapy visit will consist of an initial evaluation by a physical therapist.  It is at this time where you will be asked about the history and current status of your physical complaints, and about your past medical history and current health status.  Next the physical therapist will perform a physical examination and take various measurements to get a better understanding of potential problems.  Now you and your physical therapist can discuss and determine a plan of care that is consistent with your goals and appropriate for your physical condition at your future visits.


What happens to the information gathered at the initial evaluation?

Your physical therapist will organize the information into an initial evaluation report.  That report will be sent to your physician, and sometimes, as well as to your insurance company, so that all who are involved in your care will be notified of the plan of service. 

Monthly progress reports will also be completed and sent to your physician for a comprehensive team approach to your care.   


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