With summer comes warm weather and fun outdoor activities and vacations. For many of us, that may mean more risk of getting hurt.

Biking accidents. Tennis elbow. Softball or soccer game collision. Golf swing gone bad. These things happen.

After you get through those first days or weeks of basic healing, your doctor may recommend physical therapy.

Working with a physical therapist (PT) may help you gain greater strength and range of motion. It may even help reduce pain.

Just be sure to check your Benefit Book before you get started to find out about any services that may not be covered or may be limited as part of physical therapy. 

Before Your Visit

Use the Provider Finder® tool to confirm that the PT is in your health plan’s provider network. Even if the therapy provider is part of the same practice as your primary care physician (PCP), he or she may not be in-network.

Make a list of questions you want to ask during your visit. For example:

  • How long or often will you need physical therapy?
  • How long will you need to use any prescribed devices (like crutches or a brace)?
  • How long until you can get back to certain activities?
  • Can you get a doctor’s note for work or school if needed?

Write a list of any symptoms you've been having and for how long. If you have more than one symptom, start with the one that bothers you the most.

For example, is your pain or symptom:

  • Sharp, shooting, burning or dull/sore?
  • Always in the same place, or does it happen in different spots near the injury?
  • Constant or off and on?
  • Better or worse with certain activities, movements or positions (like sitting or standing)?
  • Better or worse at certain times of day?
  • Get better or worse by resting?

Gather information about your medical history. Include important information even if it doesn’t seem to be related to the condition that you’re seeing the PT for.

  • Make a list of all prescription and over-the-counter medications, vitamins and supplements that you are taking. Some medications can affect muscles and joints.
  • Write down any important personal information. Include any recent stressful events, injuries, incidents or other factors that you think might affect your injury or your ability to follow your physical therapy plan.
  • Make a list of any family medical conditions. Include your parents and any siblings.
  • Bring any lab, diagnostic or medical reports you have, especially any that may be related to treatment for your injury.
  • Bring the names and contact information for your doctors or other providers so your PT can contact them about your evaluation and progress. You may need to fill out a form that allows the therapist to talk with your doctors.

Take a family member or trusted friend along. He or she may be able to help you remember important details and take notes during your visit.

Be sure to wear or bring loose-fitting clothes you can move around in comfortably. The PT may want you to try certain activities or may need access to put on therapy equipment or ointments/gels.

At Your First Visit

The PT will:

  • Ask questions about your health and your current injury. These details will help determine if you can benefit from physical therapy and which treatments may help you.
  • Perform a detailed examination. Depending on your symptoms and condition, the PT might test your strength, flexibility, balance, coordination and posture. The PT may take your blood pressure and heart and breathing rates. He or she may need to "palpate" or feel the injured area.
  • Work with you to determine your goals for physical therapy so he or she can begin to develop a plan for your treatment. People with the same injury might have different goals. In many cases, the PT will confirm diagnosis and begin treatment almost immediately.
  • Talk about your visit with your doctor and other health care providers at your request.
  • Recheck your progress over time. And your PT will work with you to make a plan for what you will need to do when you are finished with physical therapy. Ask your PT what you should do if you have questions or if your symptoms or condition get worse after you finish your physical therapy.