Tips for a New Patient

We know physical therapy can be intimidating, especially when you don’t know what to expect.  We are here to help you through it so we’ve answered many common questions that patients who are new to PT may have.  If you have an additional questions, please do not hesitate to call us!   

Do I have to visit a doctor first or can I go straight to physical therapy for my problem? Direct access is exactly what it sounds like: patients having direct access to physical therapy services. In Pennsylvania, most commercial insurance plans allow you to see a physical therapist that has a Direct Access certification for up to 30 days without a referral from a physician. If the therapist determines that you require treatment for longer than this amount of time, your physical therapist will make a recommendation or referral for you to see your primary care physician or a specialist, as needed. A physician’s referral is currently needed if you are covered by Medicare.

 How do I choose a physical therapy clinic? These are some things to consider when seeking a physical therapy clinic:

  • HANDS ON CARE: A variety of techniques could be utilized in your care.  This should always include hands-on manual therapy and instruction, as well as implementation of therapeutic exercises.  Beware of therapy sessions revolving largely around electrical stimulation or ultrasound, as the research supporting the effectiveness of these methods is spotty, at best.  Hands-on care has been proven to provide the quickest and most effective route to recovery.
  • COST: Cost will vary significantly by provider, so it’s a good idea to call the clinic to ask them to check your benefits.  For those with large out-of-pocket maximums, high deductibles, or health savings accounts, consider care at a smaller clinic, where insurance reimbursements, and therefore cost, is often lower.  Large companies and hospital-owned outpatient clinics have negotiated higher rates with insurance companies and will hold patients responsible for covering the initial costs until the deductible or out of pocket maximum is met.
  • LOCATION/HOURS: The clinic should be conveniently located. Since sitting and driving often aggravate orthopedic problems, there should be a very good reason for you to drive a long distance for rehabilitation.
  • Check the clinic’s hours of operation to ensure they fit with your schedule.
  • REPUTATION:  It is important to research the reputation of that physical therapy clinic specifically, NOT their overarching umbrella of physicians, as you won’t be seeing the physicians during therapy.  Check their website, testimonials and online reputation.  In addition, you could also ask the clinic to view their patient satisfaction survey results.
  • ASK AROUND: The single most important thing you can do is ask your family and friends about their experiences in physical therapy.   There are many options in today’s healthcare arena and word-of-mouth referrals are, by far, the most reliable type of research. *Please keep in mind, physicians who offer in-house physical therapy will typically refer you to their affiliated clinic.  Similarly, all LG Health physicians are strongly encouraged by their employment contract to refer you to an LG Health rehabilitation clinic, unless the patient insists to go elsewhere.   However, the best quality of care, more efficient outcomes, and more cost effective treatment is often found at an independent clinic specializing in outpatient physical rehabilitation.  We encourage you to do your research to find the clinic that best suits your individual needs. It is your health, so it is always your choice where to go for your physical therapy needs.

What should I bring with me to my first appointment?
 Photo Identification
Insurance Card(s)
Physician’s referral for Physical therapy (except Direct Access patients)
List of current Medications
Completed New Patient forms

How should I dress? You should wear loose fitting clothing so you can expose the area that will be evaluated and treated. For example, if you have a knee problem, it is best to wear shorts or loose fitting pants that can be pulled up above the knee.

How long will my appointment last? A typical initial evaluation will last approximately one hour. The time for follow-up treatment appointments can vary, depending on the complexity of your plan of care, however a good rule of thumb is to allow an hour for each appointment.

What happens during my first visit and subsequent visits?  Your first visit, otherwise known as an initial evaluation, will include a thorough review of your medical history and a physical examination of the problem area, including establishing a baseline of function.  The therapist will establish various attainable and measurable goals and develop a treatment plan, which outlines the frequency and duration of therapy, and most importantly, specific interventions and therapeutic exercises geared to increase function. Throughout the course of therapy, the therapist will stay in touch with your physician so they can work together to ensure you are on track to a full recovery.

At each visit, part of the therapist’s job is to explain in layman’s terms, how your body is healing and responding to the treatment. and how therapy and on-going at home exercises can result in complete healing and achievement of your goals.  With successful completion of each stage, the patient will eventually “graduate” from physical therapy with not only full function, but also the knowledge of how to avoid re-injury or recurrence of the problem.

 Is physical therapy painful? While the ‘ole adage No Pain, No Gain should rarely apply to physical therapy, in some cases, physical therapy techniques may be uncomfortable or slightly painful.  Your physical therapist will utilize a variety of techniques to help maximize your treatment goals and minimize pain.  It is important that you communicate the intensity, frequency, and duration of pain to your therapist. Without this information, it is difficult for the therapist to adjust your treatment plan.

How many visits will I need? This is highly variable. You may need one visit, or you may need months of care; it will depend upon your diagnosis, the severity of your impairments and your past medical history. You will be re-evaluated on a monthly basis. In addition, when you see your doctor, we will provide them with a progress report with our recommendations.

What now? It is important to remember that it is always THE PATIENT’S CHOICE where to go for physical therapy.  We encourage you to do your research, ask around and determine where is the best fit.   Small independent outpatient PT clinics often have an advantage over their larger competitors.  By specializing solely on physical therapy, we are able to ensure the highest quality of service, which translates to an efficient and effective outcome for our patients.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to call our office or feel free to stop in and take a tour, you will be able to experience the difference from the moment you walk in our door.

Joint Pain: Is it Osteoarthritis?

PT Picture2-crop-smallJoint pain can often be caused by Osteoarthritis, which affects more than 3 million people in the US each year.

WHAT IS IT? The most common form of arthritis, it plagues women more often than men.  Our chances of developing the debilitating disease increase with age. It occurs when the cartilage at the end your bones begins to wear down. The cartilage naturally helps absorb the stress that is placed upon the joint from daily activities. When the cartilage begins to wear down, a “bone on bone” sensation at the joint may occur. Osteoarthritis can affect any joint in the body, but most commonly affects the knees, hips, hands, and spine.  Usually the person will experience inflammation and redness along with pain and tenderness at the affected area.  Pain usually becomes more substantial with weight-bearing tasks.  In addition, the joint with often feel stiff.

WHAT CAUSES IT? There are many factors that could contribute to development of osteoarthritis, including:

  • past injuries to the joint
  • continuous repetitive movements
  • age, gender, weight, genetics

WHAT CAN BE DONE ABOUT IT?  If you start to notice symptoms similar to these, your doctor may suggest an x-ray which will reveal osteoarthritis. Once diagnosed, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (or NSAIDs) could be prescribed along with a physical therapy program.  In addition, depending on the severity of your condition, injections, draining the excess fluid within the joint, or even a joint replacement surgery may be suggested.

WHY PHYSICAL THERAPY? Physical therapy has proven to be very successful for people suffering with osteoarthritis, and does not feature any of the potential side effects of the other treatment options. A typical outpatient rehabilitation program should include the following elements:

  • A gentle stretching program which will help to restore the range of motion within the joint
  • Strengthening the muscles around the joint will help take away some of the stress on the joint which will help to alleviate pain.
  • If a land-based exercise program proves to be too painful or challenging, an aquatic exercise program is a great alternative option. The buoyancy of the water takes the stress off of the joints, making it less painful to perform weight-bearing exercises and easier to move the joint through a pain-free range of motion.

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and it can be very painful and difficult to maintain your normal daily living. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle of diet and exercise can help to manage symptoms. A regimen of physical therapy, including aquatic-based exercises, is a great treatment option to help you return to a comfortable lifestyle.

HARTZ Physical Therapy provides aquatic therapy in our Lititz office.  Call today for more information.  (A physician’s referral is not necessary for most insurances)

How is an Independent Private Practice Different?

Have you ever had that dream, where you are running as fast as you can and getting nowhere?  Translate that feeling to your health…when you are injured, your first goal is to get back to 100% as efficiently as possible.  It is not always going to be a speedy recovery, but it would be nice to know that your health care providers aren’t wasting your time, right?  When it comes to your health you should always investigate the quality of your treatment options.

In regards to physical therapy services, excellence can vary by practice setting. In a recent article published in “PT In Motion” magazine, the writers studied patients with low back pain at various rehabilitation clinics. You might be surprised to learn of specific differences they found between privately-owned and physician-owned physical therapy clinics.

Physical therapy received in a private practice setting provides quicker healing and requires fewer treatment sessions. In this low back pain study, choosing a private practice resulted in an average of two fewer PT sessions vs. a physician-owned practice. That translates into fewer co-pays, reduced travel and personal time expenditures, and ultimately a quicker return to your previous quality of life!

This study also confirmed that this reduction in visits for patients utilizing private practice settings did not decrease the quality of treatment received. Instead private practices scored high in treatment units for strengthening, flexibility gains, progressed endurance, and functional activities. Physician-owned rehabilitation services used fewer units for these important treatments and instead billed for more passive modalities, such as electrical stimulation, ultrasounds, and thermal agents – widely considered less effective than the aforementioned units.

So patients at private practice clinics:

  • needed fewer visits to get well
  • benefitted from more hands-on treatments instead of less effective modalities
  • paid less both personally and through insurance
  • showed results as good or better than physician-owned clinics

Utilization of private practice clinics is an excellent way to reduce ever-growing healthcare costs keeping physical therapy affordable for everyone.

HARTZ Physical Therapy is a proud to be an independent, locally owned and operated private practice. We have been improving the quality of life for our patients for over 15 years with efficient, exceptional service.  If you are dissatisfied with your healthcare, give our practice a try. You may be surprised to learn what a difference private practice can have in your care!

Works Cited
News Now Staff. “Physician Self-Referral to Physical Therapy for LBP Does Less, Costs More.” PT in Motion. PT in Motion. 11 Aug. 2015. Web. 22 Oct. 2015.