Do You Know When to Go Back to See Your Athletic Therapist?
It’s really easy to get caught up in the routine of physical therapy.
Maybe it’s initially suggested that you go two to three times per week, and that just keeps going. Maybe you aren’t clear on what things should feel like, so you need that direct guidance. Maybe you don’t even have a home program, and you depend on the therapist to do therapy on you versus, helping you rehab yourself. Or, maybe the frequency is just slowly trickling down, finally getting to a point of, “Well, see you if there’s another injury.”
It doesn’t have to be that ambiguous. And honestly, it shouldn’t be! Follow these steps to help ensure that you know when seeing your AT is appropriate:
First of all, you should always leave each appointment with a clear understanding of what your goals are between the next appointments. Really, this means you should have a home program.
Coming in for athletic therapy is like 2% of your week. The other 98% of the time involves you doing some active work; maybe it’s working on range of motion or strength, modifying an activity, treating your swelling, or incorporating something into your daily routine.
Second: You shouldn’t be needing to constantly see the therapist to fix something. This is partly a topic for a post of it’s own, but I can pretty much guarantee you that nothing is “out of place,“ “being realigned,” or any other form of that phrase.
The job of the therapist to facilitate. We help calm down some irritated tissue, help desensitize some nerves, guide the remodelling process, or help improve joint circulation, all through manual techniques.
But I really can’t think of a scenario where you “need” that multiple times a week, if the therapist has taught you how to do things on your own. I will 100% absolutely see a client multiple times a week if that’s what we decide together, but usually with the explanation of that it’s not for me to “work on them” more frequently, but to work with them through their program.
Third: You should have an understanding of different types of sensations you may feel as you go through a particular movement, stretch, or exercise. It’s totally normal for there to be some uncomfortable sensations, but a lot of them are safe for you to work through independently, and there are some that can be a sign you should check in with me for either some hands-on facilitation, exercise modification, or a reassessment. We go through these red/yellow/green lights for every aspect of your home program, and also for daily activities.
Fourth: There should be a clear end goal as well. You want the range of motion, strength, function, and confidence, to participate safely in the activities that you want to be completing. Both of us need to understand the details required for the joints and soft tissue, and perhaps some associated risks that may go with the activity (uneven terrain, repetitive movements, inefficient postures, etc).
We can’t prepare you for every single possible situation out there, but we can absolutely maximize your body’s capacity to withstand the loads and forces imposed on it through that activity, assuming we are on the same page of what that activity is!
Fifth, and finally: Your therapist shouldn’t set a long-term treatment plan in the first session, unless this is a post-surgical case, or there’s neurological deficit. Sprains and strains including whiplash from car accidents, and even back injuries with disc or nerve components, often don’t require 15-20 (or more) therapy sessions.
If you don’t see even short-term change after a couple of sessions, or you haven’t been given anything active to do, either you and the therapist aren’t the right team for each other, or the plan needs to be re-evaluated.
Frequency might fluctuate with the ups and downs that is normal in rehab, but I’d just be cautious if you’re encouraged to book multiple visits right off the bat, or if there’s no talk of re-evaluation.
Final Note: Insurance companies give us caps on money or number of sessions for some of the worst-case situations, not for the hell of it to use up “because it’s there.” If you’re feeling good, and it’s safe to function in the ways you want, it’s okay to stop seeing us! In fact, I want that!
Obviously exceptions can happen with any one of these points, but I think this conversation needs to happen with all therapists, and all clients.
Are you unsure of what kind of questions to ask?
Megan is a Certified Athletic Therapist working in private practice and with sports teams for over 5 years. She’s currently working towards a Master’s degree in Rehabilitation Science, while continuing to pursue learning opportunities through attending continuing education and professional development courses in North America. Along with the passion for learning, Megan is an avid yogi, loves deadlifting, boybands, and pumpkin spice lattes.
Thank you for reading my article. I hope you found it helpful or at least thought-provoking. If this post did help you, consider sharing it with someone you think it would help too.