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Getting Started in Physical Therapy

Many people work with a physical therapist to manage pain and stiffness and to heal from an injury or surgery. Other people use PT to reduce symptoms of long-term health conditions like heart disease or arthritis.

Physical Therapy

Physical Therapy New Jersey has advanced degrees, typically a doctorate in physical therapy (DPT). They are knowledgeable about how different body systems affect movement and can provide hands-on treatment to improve mobility.

During the initial evaluation, your physical therapist will take you through an in-depth examination. The goal of the evaluation is to gather objective and subjective information in order to formulate a diagnosis. Throughout the rest of your treatment, small evaluations will be conducted to see how you are progressing towards your goals and to ensure that your treatments are effective. This is a time for your physical therapist to get an in-depth understanding of what is going on in your body and mind, so be honest and communicate what you are experiencing.

Initially, your physical therapist will review your medical history and help you complete a self-assessment questionnaire. This gives the therapist important context for your symptoms and what has worked in the past to alleviate them. Typically, you will also be asked to discuss any medications that you are currently taking.

Next, your physical therapist will conduct movement screenings to identify deficits in your mobility and range of motion. This is usually done while you are standing up but may require you to lie on an exam table if necessary. The therapist will gently move your joints and muscles through a variety of movements to assess pain, stiffness, and movement restrictions. They will apply pressure to the area with their hands, and they may move your leg or arm through a range of positions to see how you respond to different levels of compression.

Once the therapist has collected all of this objective and subjective data, they will begin to draw conclusions from their findings and form a diagnosis. Often, this is the most critical part of the evaluation process, and it requires a high degree of clinical reasoning to determine whether the test results support the patient’s unique clinical presentation.

Once they have a final diagnosis, your therapist will document their findings in the evaluation report. This is a crucial step in the PT evaluation process, and it is vital that you are familiar with how these reports are compiled and written. Using an online EMR system that provides a simple and straightforward approach to documentation can help you save time and improve the quality of your PT evaluations.


Whether you have an obvious injury like a sports injury or something more insidious like chronic back pain that has been creeping up over time, your physical therapist will design a treatment plan that is unique to you. This will involve manual therapy (hands-on techniques) and exercises to contract, relax, and strengthen your muscles. Often times treatment plans include the use of treatment modalities (hot/cold packs, electrical stimulation) to reduce inflammation and relieve pain and muscle spasms.

Your physical therapist will use a variety of techniques including massage, mobilization, manipulation, stretching and exercise. They will teach you how to prevent the injury from recurring and help you return to your normal activity level quickly. They will also address any underlying issues that are contributing to your injury such as poor posture, repetitive motions, and improper movement patterns.

In addition to traditional physical therapy treatment your physical therapist may utilize the following modalities:

Ultrasound: A wand-like sound head is placed on your skin and moved in small circles near the area of the injury. This stimulates the cellular repair process and increases blood flow to the area.

Electrical stimulation: This involves using a battery-powered device that sends inferior electrical impulses through electrodes placed on the surface of your body. It helps decrease pain by blocking the pain signals from reaching your brain. This is called transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation or TENS. It is a relatively painless procedure.

Iontophoresis: This is a painless treatment that uses an electro-stimulation machine to deliver medication across the skin to inflamed areas. It is used to treat conditions such as arthritis and tendinitis.

Light therapy: This is a painless treatment that exposes the injured tissue to various wavelengths of light, such as infrared, blue or yellow light and ultraviolet light. It has been shown to accelerate the cellular repair process and improve circulation, which leads to a decrease in pain and swelling.

Women’s health physical therapists are specially trained to address the unique musculoskeletal problems that can affect women throughout their lives. This includes pelvic pain, pre- and post-partum care, osteoporosis management, and a wide range of women’s sport injuries.


A physical therapist is an excellent resource for persons suffering from conditions like arthritis, fibromyalgia, spinal cord injuries, and stroke. PTs work with people of all ages to improve their range of motion and ability to perform functional activities through exercise and education. They help restore function in those who have been injured, as well as those with chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

In order to become a physical therapist, a postgraduate professional degree is required. Many PT programs award a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree, but some offer a Master of Physical Therapy (MPT). It’s important to choose an accredited program that offers the prerequisite courses for your chosen specialty.

When choosing a physical therapy school, make sure it offers ample opportunities to gain clinical experience and exposure to the real-world environment. These experiences will help you feel prepared for your future career in the field and demonstrate your readiness to employers.

Some PT schools also offer unique internships and co-ops to give students hands-on experience with real patients. This is a great way to network with peers and build valuable relationships, as you can seek their advice throughout your career for guidance or to troubleshoot complex patient cases.

Depending on the school, a DPT program may take three or more years to complete. It’s also important to consider the cost of tuition, as well as living expenses while in school. Many PTs find that the best way to afford school is to look for financial aid options, such as grants, scholarships, and loans. You can also apply for loan forgiveness if you work in certain public service fields like healthcare, education, or government.

As you research DPT programs, make sure the school you choose is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). This ensures that the school meets or exceeds the minimum standards for entry-level practice.

Once you’ve completed your DPT program, you’ll need to pass the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) in order to receive your state license. The NPTE is a multi-part test that includes multiple-choice questions, case studies, and performance tasks.


After completing the initial physical therapy plan, follow-up sessions are recommended to keep your body healthy and strong. These can take place in a health care setting or in your home. During this time, your therapist will reassess your injury or condition and make adjustments as needed.

If you have a chronic disease or injury, your therapist may also suggest other treatments that can help reduce the risk of future injuries. These might include pain management techniques or other preventative measures. The therapist will also review any diagnostic imaging (such as x-rays or MRI) that has been taken since your last appointment.

At this point, the therapist will have a clear understanding of how well your body is healing. Based on the results of your evaluation and your recovery rate, the therapist will set goals for discharge. They will discuss when you can expect to be able to start exercising on your own, and can give recommendations for trainers or classes that will help you stay on track.

The therapist will also talk to you about modifying your daily activities at work or at home while your injury heals. For example, if you have a shoulder injury, your therapist may recommend that you stop climbing ladders or using certain tools. These modifications are designed to protect the injury and allow you to live your life while you heal.

During follow-up sessions, your therapist can answer any questions you have about the treatment process or how to best manage your injury at home. They can also recommend additional specialists or health care practitioners that you should see if they feel your needs are not being addressed.

Continuing to follow your PT exercises after you have been discharged is important for long-term success. Make sure you have a strong support network, such as friends or family members who can help you stick to your exercise program. If you need more guidance, your therapist can always be a resource and may even offer suggestions for trainers or gyms that they trust. Keeping the lines of communication open with your therapist is key to your recovery.