People find us through many avenues, and they come to us for many different reasons. One of the most common reasons they cite is that they don’t feel like they are currently receiving the quality of physical therapy care that they expected. Basically, what the front office of another clinic told them does not match up with the care they are getting, and as a result, they are displeased with their physical therapy experience.
I’ve been a physical therapist for over a decade now, and I can tell you that the industry has changed a lot. These changes range from what is currently the best evidence of effective treatment to what the patient’s experience should be.
Some examples of things that were popular when I started but are no longer utilized in patient treatment are:
-E. Stim for pain relief
-Laying down for the entire duration of the treatment
-The use of taping
The aforementioned treatments are what we refer to as “Dinosaur Care”.
Evidence of the efficacy of these treatment techniques just doesn’t exist.
As an industry, I can honestly say that physical therapy seems to be trending back towards the tried and true principles of strength and conditioning- aka movements! This is our bread and butter. Previously, our industry was specifically known for adhering to these principles. However, times have changed, not to mention that there are still some clinics and clinicians out there holding on to old, passive modalities such as those listed above. These practitioners also tend to underload the injuries by only using stretchy bands for the entire session.
However, the really sad part of the industry changing over the last decade is the change the treatment of patients. Here are my top red flags to look for:
1. Overcrowded Clinics
I get it, some people thrive on the busyness of clinics. Sometimes it seems like organized chaos. But when you see 5 patients enter while only 3 leave, something doesn’t add up. There are some rather large clinics, but be aware of feeling overcrowded in the facility.
2. Lack of time with your physical therapist- just because they’re busy doesn’t mean they’re providing quality physical therapy
The initial evaluation will trick you. Of course everything feels great. You genuinely like and trust the therapist who evaluated you. Everything sounds really good- you now have an answer and you feel like you have a partner in your care. You built rapport with your therapist and shared some stories that you may not normally tell people. But then, you come to your follow up appointment, and a different therapist greets you. Or worse yet, you see your original therapist sitting behind a computer for your entire treatment session, barely looking up to acknowledge you.
Explaining your whole issue again to someone who is ‘treating’ you doesn’t sit well… it sucks. I implore you to keep in mind that by and large, most physical therapists truly do care and want to help you get better, despite sometimes getting caught up in the system and expectations.
3. You do the same exercises at every session
I understand consistency is key, but stagnation is not. You can have the same goals for months, but you should be progressing towards these goals. Anyone can give you 5 exercises to do at home throughout the week. There is no skill in prescribing the same exercises over and over. Our bodies are meant to adapt to different stimuli. This could be different sets, different reps, resistance, or a completely different exercise. Don’t get stuck doing the same things over and over.
This happens more than I would like to admit. Many patients come to me who are active adults or athletes and tell me they were doing the same exercises as the lady who came in to be treated for her back… except this patient was there to be treated for their knee. You can insert different body parts but the story is the same. I have also had athletes tell me that they were given the same exercises to do that “Betty and Ethel” were doing in the corner.
Why does this happen?
All of these red flags impact the quality of care you are receiving. It’s not your fault! Let’s face it, one of the big reasons for this is the reimbursements from insurance companies. These reimbursements have gone down over the years, and continue to decline. As a result, a lot of physical therapy clinics are forced to increase their volume of patients. Undoubtedly, those owners aren’t going to take a pay cut just because insurance companies are decreasing their payouts.
What is really sad is that after patients attend these therapy clinics and “fail” physical therapy, they don’t know what to do next. Most people go back to their doctors hoping for a different solution. Unfortunately, the different solution is usually surgery or injections. There was a reason you said no to those to begin with…
Surgeries have no guarantee and and not reversible. Injections aren’t much better, and are more often offered as a band-aid.
What if quality physical therapy could have helped you? Would you opt for the quality physical therapy instead of the ‘normal’ and ‘accepted’ level of care?
So how would you define quality physical therapy?
- The staff (not just the physical therapist) is attentive to your needs and gets to know you and what you are being seen for
- Treatment is customized and not just from a cookie cutter program designed for those suffering with “X” pain
- There should be weights for you to lift, whether that’s now or down the road during your treatment. Life is not a bunch of rubber bands, and you can’t get better just by laying down
- Your therapist should be spending time with you. They are the experts in your diagnosis, plan of care, and how to adjust your treatment based on your current presentation
- Passive modalities such as massage, heat, cold, ultrasound etc. should not be the focus of the treatment session
- You should leave your session feeling empowered and confident in the care you received.
Are you located in Gilbert, AZ or Mesa, AZ?
In summary, if you are dealing with pain and lack of quality care, book a FREE DISCOVERY VISIT with a specialist at Spark Performance and Physiotherapy. We can discover if we are the right fit for each other.