When you have been through an accident, injury, or are struggling with a physically challenging medical condition, physical therapy is often the best approach to both pain relief and recovery. While medication can dull existing pain, physical therapy can help you reduce the overall pain you experience and accelerate any healing that needs to be done. However, physical therapy isn’t like taking a pill or even undergoing surgery. It is a very personal process that requires trust, communication, and cooperation between both the patient and the therapist. This is why it matters so much to find the right therapist for your recovery process.
While some people are lucky enough to find the perfect physical therapist on their first doctor’s recommendation, it’s usually not that easy. The therapists available in your local hospital or recommended by your primary care physician may be great at their jobs, but might not be the perfect fit for you. It’s important to consider not just your first options, but the selection of independent physical therapists in your community and interview several until you find the right person to help you through this difficult time. We’d like to explain the seven key reasons why to seek your own physical therapist independently.
1) Finding the Right Therapist is Vital to Your Recovery
If you and your physical therapist don’t get along in any way, the recovery process is going to be more difficult than necessary. Most people don’t realize this, but choosing a physical therapist shares many of the same characteristics as finding the right psychologist. It can take time and a lack of rapport doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with either of you. The right physical therapist is also vital to a successful recovery.
Additional stress will make your body less able to heal and can prevent you from relaxing properly during the therapy sessions. If you are not completely at ease with your therapist or disagree with them about their approach, you won’t see nearly as much success from the therapy. This is why it’s so important to go on your own search for a therapist, rather than simply accepting the first person you are told to see.
2) Recommendations are Sometimes Based on Convenience, Not Consideration
The biggest mistake most people make when accepting the first physical therapist recommendation is that the doctor knows best. If your physician or hospital suggests someone to you, it’s easy to think that this recommendation comes from years of expert medical experience and carefully matching a therapist to your diagnosis, personality, and recovery needs. In reality, it’s more often simply that this is a therapist known by the person making the recommendation who is nearby and professionally capable of treating your condition.
They might be the perfect therapist for you, but that is for you to decide. A therapist who is housed in your primary care hospital or a friend of your doctor is a recommendation of convenience, not a full consideration. It’s your responsibility to find a therapist you are truly at ease with who is ready to help you through the recovery you need. Never let a provider make you feel as if you don’t have a choice in the matter – that goes directly against court orders and federal statutes that support the patient’s right to choose.
3) Specialization and Experience Matter
Not all physical therapists are equally skilled at all kinds of therapy. Like any medical profession, physical therapy is defined by specializations and real-world experience. Some therapists specialize in helping people recover after car accidents, some are best at easing the pain and progress of arthritis, some are maternity specialists who can help during and after a pregnancy. What you have been through and what you need will have a very strong influence on the therapist you choose.
Always ask each therapist you interview about what they specialize in and what experience they have dealing with your condition. This will tell you how well prepared they are to build the right therapy plan, provide passive treatment, and help you through your recovery.
4) Finding Someone You Can Feel Comfortable With
Physical therapy in itself is an incredible exercise of trust, and not just with your body. You need to be able to communicate with your physical therapist without embarrassment or personal discomfort. If something hurts, even in a very private area, your therapist needs to know. If you feel better, sometimes in a deeply personal way (like increased libido, for example), your therapist may need to know.
And, of course, you will be trusting them to help heal your body during therapy sessions and to make recommendations on how to treat yourself between sessions. This requires an overwhelming amount of trust which means you need to be absolutely comfortable with the physical therapist you choose. It’s okay to need a therapist of your own gender, age, or of a certain demeanor to be comfortable.
In fact, all physical therapists understand that you are on a quest for the perfect match so don’t be afraid to look until you find someone you can really relax and be honest with. Even if they are not your doctor’s first suggestion. You have control of your own treatment and providers, so don’t settle for a referral that you don’t think is right for you.
5) Working Therapy into Your Schedule
Is the hospital you visit an hour or more away from your home? Or is the first recommended therapist’s office far outside your normal driving route? In order to fully engage in your physical therapy, you have to be able to get there first. Don’t be afraid to look for a physical therapist in your home neighborhood or on the route between work and home so that you can visit them regularly without making your life more difficult.
There are many physical therapist offices in every town, even small ones, and you have a right to see someone who is available where you need to be.
6) Avoiding Conflict of Interest
As with any kind of medical treatment, it is important that there are no conflicts of interest with the physical therapist you choose. While this may sound controversial, it’s also a natural human consideration. Some people aren’t comfortable with any therapist that seems to be a routine recommendation in case there is some kind of handshake deal in the background. Though there are laws in place to prevent this type of fraud, you may still feel uncomfortable about a referral, and that is okay. It is illegal for providers to receive monetary compensation for referrals and to coerce a patient to go to a particular provider. If you feel like this is happening, seek out a different provider that you feel comfortable with and report the incident.
7) Staying Inside Your Insurance Requirements
Finally, uncomfortable as most people are talking about money, you may need your physical therapy to be covered by your insurance. While many people pay out-of-pocket with no problem, if money is tight it’s perfectly alright to keep looking until you find someone who fits both your personal and financial needs. Fortunately, many physical therapists are eligible for big and little insurance plans and independent therapists are often experienced in helping you register their practice with your insurance to get the coverage you need.
So should you accept the first physical therapist recommendation you receive from your primary care physician or treatment hospital? While it’s possible that the first person will be a perfect match, this may not necessarily be true. Take some time to investigate a few independent physical therapists as well that you may be more comfortable with, have offices closer to your home, or have more experience treating your condition. Remember that it’s your right to choose your treatment provider, so don’t feel obligated to use the first referral unless they are right for you. For more information about how to find and choose the right physical therapist for you, feel free to contact us at any time or come in an speak to us at one of our Covington, Slidell, or Westbank locations.