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What to Expect From PT: Key Components of Physio

    After an injury or surgery, your doctor may recommend that you attend a physical therapy program of some kind. But if you’ve never experienced PT before, it can be overwhelming to take the first step. 

    Especially if you’re recovering from an injury, your primary concern may be whether or not physiotherapy will hurt or if it will do more harm than good. 

    If you’re not sure what to expect from your time at physical therapy, keep reading. We’re going to outline all the information that you need to feel confident in your appointment. 

    Physiotherapy Areas 

    Physiotherapy is an umbrella term that describes a very wide field of study. There are three main areas that you need to understand when it comes to your own treatment or the treatment of someone you’re closed to.

    Those three areas are musculoskeletal, cardio-respiratory, and neurology. We’re going to give you a basic rundown so you can learn more about what therapy is right for you.


    If you have an injury in your muscles, bones, or joints, you’ll have musculoskeletal PT. If you’ve recently suffered a fall, broken bones, back pain, tennis elbow, or a sprained ankle, you’ll fall into this category. 


    Cardio-respiratory PT is a little different. This deals with any issue with your heart or your lungs. If you have asthma, obstructive lung disease, or a pneumothorax, you’ll be dealing with professionals who specialize in cardio-respiratory PT. 

    In general, these specialists work in hospitals with patients who are there for treatment for these conditions. Occasionally, outpatient PT will be prescribed. 


    If you’re recently suffered a stroke or you’re dealing with cerebral palsy, you’ll have physiotherapy in the neurology department. Neuro-physiotherapy will help you recover mobility to control your body parts. 

    In some cases, neurology and musculoskeletal PT go through the same motions, but the areas that they target are very different. 

    Your First Physiotherapy Appointment 

    Now that you know what kind of therapy you’ll receive, let’s take a look at what you’ll do at your first appointment. 

    Make sure that you arrive at your appointment at least five minutes early to fill out paperwork. Make sure you’re wearing comfortable clothes that you can move in. 

    Your therapist will run down a thorough medical history and an assessment to figure out what your issues are and how severe they are. 

    Your PT Assessment 

    Depending on your issue, you may need to remove some clothing to be properly assessed. Come in shorts if you have an issue with your back or legs. 

    Your therapist will spend some time observing the way you do some specific movements. They may ask you to sit, stand, walk, bend the joint near your injury, or lay down. They will likely help you manipulate your limbs to check how flexible you are or feel the area as well. 

    Your therapist will use a variety of tools to measure your flexibility to set a starting point so they know if you’re progressing through treatment. 

    These tests don’t typically cause any pain. If it does, let your therapist know. They need to know your limits so they can safely set your goals and routines. 

    Your Treatment Plan 

    Once your therapist has a good idea of where you’re at physically, they’ll be able to create a treatment plan for you. The exact treatment plan will vary widely depending on: 

    • Your injury 

    • Your therapist’s goals 

    • Your therapist’s preferences 

    • Your abilities 

    There are a couple of things that are common threads throughout many kinds of physical therapy. Your therapist may help your injured area with soft tissue massage or give you advice and education. They may also put continuous pressure on certain spots to help you gain mobilization.

    There will likely be a number of monitored exercises. This is helpful so they can correct any posture or positioning issues.  

    Post-Treatment Experience 

    After your treatment, it’s normal to be a little sore. Talk to your doctor about pain management after physical therapy. 

    It’s important that you continue with your physical therapy treatment plan at home as well. Your therapist can only be with you for so long. But your healing depends on your ability to keep up with your prescribed plan. 

    Length of Treatment Plan 

    Likewise, the length of your treatment plan will vary depending on your needs and your progression. This can vary from a few weeks to a few months depending on: 

    • Your injury 

    • The extent of the injury 

    • Length of symptoms 

    • Fitness level 

    • Lifestyle 

    • Following the treatment plan

    If you’re following your treatment plan as prescribed, you’re doing your part to shorten the amount of time spent in physical therapy. 

    The Importance of Physical Therapy 

    Physical therapy is crucial in recovering from an injury or a health issue. It helps strengthen the muscles and joints around your injured structure to help prevent further injury. 

    When we’re healing, we often develop strength imbalances, depending on where the injury is located. Physical therapy helps combat that. 

    It can also address issues post-surgery, like pain, scar tissue, range of motion, and strength. 

    Ultimately, your health really does depend on your willingness to complete your physiotherapy as prescribed. 

    Understanding Physical Therapy 

    Now that you know a little bit more about PT, you can go into your first physical therapy appointment with the confidence that you’re in good hands. Physical therapists are experts at helping patients heal from injury, whether it’s from an accident, a medical issue, or a health problem you’re experiencing. 

    For more information about how to take control of your health today, keep reading!