How to Choose Your Physical Therapist

In this day and age, your health care seems to be limited by what health insurance you carry. On average, people spend 7 hours researching and shopping online for a new car to buy and less than 60 minutes choosing their healthcare provider! With our healthcare system continually changing, consumers must be proactive and take the responsibility of their health into their own hands.

So what factors should be considered when choosing a health care provider?

More specifically, how do you choose a qualified physical therapist?

You want a physical therapist who is going to perform a thorough examination, listen to you discuss your injury, and spend quality one-on-one time with you.

You want a physical therapist who understands that the human body works as an integrated organism and that often times the injury is not local to the site but has an effect on the rest of the body.

All 50 states have some form of direct access to physical therapy services without a physician referral, yet often times, patients are referred to physical therapy from their physician. Physicians may refer you to a physical therapy clinic in their office or to a clinic in which they have a financial interest. With this in mind, patients need to understand that they can choose any physical therapy provider that they want, in any facility! 

Here is some important information you need to consider:


Your physical therapist should be specialized

Physical therapists can specialize in treating different areas of the body and can become board-certified in specialties such as orthopedics, sports, neurology, pediatrics, etc. Ask to see if your physical therapist is board-certified and in what specialty.

Did you have surgery and you want the best possible outcome? Look for a physical therapist who is board certified in orthopedics with the credentials “OCS” after their name.  Are you an athlete looking to overcome a specific sports injury, prevent further injuries, and optimize performance? Look for a physical therapist who is board certified in sports, with the credentials “SCS” after their name.  


Your physical therapist should see no more than one patient per hour

Quality is more important than quantity. You want to find a physical therapist who sees no more than one patient per hour. I have worked in busy outpatient clinics seeing over 100 patients a week and found that I cannot give patients the treatment that they deserve.

Often when you are seen by a therapist with multiple patients at the same time, you are handed off to an aide or technician. Sometimes, these aides have no healthcare education at all. This only delays your recovery and increases your healthcare costs! Aides or technicians are there to help assist physical therapists by preparing the treatment areas and modalities and should never be providing direct care to patients.

A model based on one-on-one care from a physical therapist will promote a faster return to the activities that you love and will not waste your time handing you off to an aide or technician.


Your physical therapist should use modern and relevant research

Healthcare is continually evolving with new medications, procedures, and techniques constantly becoming available to healthcare consumers. As experts of the musculoskeletal system, physical therapists must uphold the value of well-established and rigorously tested interventions. A good physical therapist uses research to help guide patient treatment decisions to allow for the promotion of optimal health.  


Your physical therapist should Provide hands-on care

Choose a physical therapist who provides hands-on care and not just counts your repetitions during exercises. Hands-on manual therapy can be extremely beneficial in speeding up your recovery and getting you better faster! Types of hands-on manual therapy can include dry needling, myofascial release, joint mobilizations, soft tissue massage, proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation, nerve gliding, etc.


If you do have an injury and need physical therapy, here are

5 questions to ask your physical therapist:

1.   How many patients do they see at one time?

2.   Are they board certified?

3.   Who fills in for them when he/she is not available?

4.   Will my care be provided by a physical therapist or will I be handed off to a technician or aide?

5.   Do they stay current with the latest research and let evidence guide their treatment decisions?


If you are in the Chattanooga area and dealing with an injury, Athletic Edge Physical Therapy offers a free 15-minute consultation to discuss your case and determine your best options for your treatment.