First Physical Therapy Appointment? 5 Common Questions from Patients

First Physical Therapy Appointment? 5 Common Questions


Congratulations on taking the first step toward recovery and your first visit to a Physical Therapist. All of us have been to a doctor or physician over the years and we probably can’t even remember our first appointment. However, patients often have questions about what their first physical therapy appointment will be like.

Physical Therapists use hands-on, personalized treatment plans for each patient, but some physical therapy questions apply to all patients on their first visit. The list below will help you prepare for your first session and know what to expect from your visit.

What do I need to do before my first appointment?

Before your first appointment, it is recommended that you:

  • Review key details of your medical history so you can share them with your physical therapist. Include a list of any prescription and over-the-counter medications that you currently take.
  • Gather documents like your prescription from your referring physician and any x-rays or scans that may help your therapist gain a clearer picture of your condition.
  • Make a list of your symptoms and what your goals are for your treatment. Your goals may be as broad as “reducing my back pain”, or as specific as “wanting to be able to dance again at my upcoming reunion.”
  • Write down any questions you may have for your physical therapist, so you remember to have them answered during your visit.
  • Check with the office if you will need to arrive early in order to fill out any paperwork prior to your first evaluation.

What should I bring with me or what should I wear?

  • Bring your prescription from your referring physician and your insurance card, so that billing can be completed properly.
  • Bring any splints or assistive devices that you may be using as a result of an injury.
  • Wear comfortable clothing that will allow your therapist to examine the area or body part that needs therapy. If you are coming from work, you may bring clothes to change into for your appointment.

What will my first appointment be like?

Your first physical therapy visit is focused on evaluating your condition and reviewing your medical history. You will be asked many general questions to determine your overall health and then more specific questions about your condition. You will be objectively tested for range of motion, flexibility, strength, posture and overall mobility to further diagnose the extent of your injury. Your starting evaluation will provide a baseline measurement so that you and your physical therapist can celebrate your progress as you move closer to reaching your personal goals.

During this process, your physical therapist will be crafting a treatment plan that is specific for you. Every patient’s medical history, injury and recovery is different, and your treatment plan will reflect that. In many cases, your therapist will be able to make a diagnosis and begin treatment almost immediately.

How long are physical therapy sessions?

Your first physical therapy appointment will usually last one hour (after initial paperwork has been completed). This allows enough time for a thorough medical history, full evaluation of your condition, and initial treatment.

Subsequent treatments may be 30-45 minutes depending upon your personalized treatment plan. A very important component of your plan will include education about your condition and steps you can take at home to help you reach your goals using stretching and exercises. Although your physical therapy visits may only be a few times a week, you may have activities assigned to you that you can complete in between therapy visits.

Will physical therapy be painful?

Two of the main goals of physical therapy are increased mobility and pain relief. Because of these goals, the physical therapist will use hands-on techniques to manipulate your body, and therapies such as ultrasound, electrical stimulation and heat or cold therapy. The treatments can be very soothing for sore muscles and joints.

Recovery from major surgery or severe injury often requires techniques to encourage full range of motion and promote healing – and these can be painful. It is important to communicate with your therapist the intensity, frequency, and duration of your pain, so they can adjust your treatment plan if necessary.


Your first physical therapy appointment is your first step toward reaching your goal of increased mobility and decreased pain. By following the suggestions provided above, you will know what to expect from your initial visit and help make it more of a success. Your personalized treatment plan is developed based on the answers you provide to your therapist and your initial evaluation.

Your therapist will be well-prepared for your first appointment – and now you will, too! If you have any further questions about how to prepare for your first physical therapy appointment or any general questions about what a physical therapy session entails, please visit our FAQ page or contact us today!