FAQ's First Physical Therapy Visit

What can I expect on my first physical therapy visit?

During your first visit you can expect the following:

  • Arrive at your appointment with your paperwork completed (client forms here).
  • If referred by a doctor, you will provide us with your prescription for physical therapy.
  • We will copy your insurance card.
  • You will be seen for the initial evaluation by a physical therapist.
  • The therapist will discuss the following:
    • Your medical history
    • Your current problems/complaints
    • Pain intensity, what aggravates and eases the problem
    • How this is impacting your daily activities or your functional limitations
    • Your goals with physical therapy
    • Medications, tests, and procedures related to your health

The therapist will then perform the objective evaluation which may include some of the following:

  1. Palpation – touching around the area of the pain/problem. This is done to check for the presence of tenderness, swelling, soft tissue integrity, tissue temperature, inflammation, etc.
  2. Range of Motion (ROM) – the therapist will move the joint(s) to check for the quality of movement and any restrictions.
  3. Muscle Testing – the therapist may check for strength and the quality of the muscle contraction. Pain and weakness may be noted. Often the muscle strength is graded. This is also part of a neurological screening.
  4. Neurological Screening – the therapist may check to see how the nerves are communicating with the muscles, sensing touch, pain, vibration, or temperature. Reflexes may be assessed as well.
  5. Special Tests – the therapist may perform special tests to confirm/rule out the presence of additional problems.
  6. Posture Assessment – the positions of joints relative to ideal and each other may be assessed.

The therapist will then formulate a list of problems you are having, and how to treat those problems. A plan is subsequently developed with the patient’s input. This includes how many times you should see the therapist per week, how many weeks you will need therapy, home programs, patient education, short-term/long-term goals, and what is expected after discharge from therapy. This plan is created with input from you and your therapist.

What do I need to bring with me?

If you’ve been referred by a doctor, make sure you bring your physical therapy referral and your payment information. If your insurance is covering the cost of physical therapy, bring your insurance card.

How should I dress?

It is best to wear clothing and shoes that are appropriate for exercise. Wear loose fitting clothing so you can expose the area that we will be evaluating and treating. For example, if you have a knee problem, it is best to wear shorts. For a shoulder problem, a tank top is a good choice, and for low back problems, wear a loose fitting shirt and pants, again so we can perform a thorough examination.

How long will each treatment last?

Treatment sessions typically last 40 to 60 minutes per visit.

How many visits will I need?

This is highly variable. You may need one visit or you may need months of care. It depends on your diagnosis, the severity of your impairments, your past medical history, etc. You will be re-evaluated on a monthly basis and when you see your therapist, we will provide you with our recommendations.

How much pain will physical therapy cause?

This is a really great question. It’s true that physical therapy is a very physical experience and as such treatments can often be a little uncomfortable at times, but we will always aim to be as gentle as possible and cause the minimal discomfort we possibly can to get your problem solved as fast as we can. Before we do any physical therapy techniques we will tell you exactly what is about to happen whether or not it is likely to hurt and for how long.

More often than not the pain stops as soon as we do, so you only have to tell us to stop and we will. Pain is a side to physical therapy that is often unavoidable and most patients eventually concede that the pain is a nice sort of pain, one they know that is doing them some good and is often no worse than the pain that they are already in. The discomfort usually reduces as treatment progresses and we always advise you on things like ice and heat to help reduce the soreness that might be caused by the treatment.

What injuries do physical therapists treat?

Here is a list of the common injuries that we see: This is known as the diagnosis.


  • Sciatica
  • Sacro Iliac joint pain and stiffness
  • Spinal Stenosis
  • Weak core stability
  • Disc prolapse/herniated disc/slipped disc/bulging disc


  • Muscle spasm and tension
  • Rotator Cuff tear
  • Impingement Syndrome
  • Neck Spondylosis (degeneration)
  • Disc prolapse/herniated disc/slipped disc/bulging disc

Ankle and Knee

  • Ankle Sprain
  • Achilles tendon
  • Plantar Fasciitis
  • Knee Cartilage
  • Post surgery knee rehab

Sports injury/Muscles

  • Calf strain
  • Hamstring strain
  • Shoulder muscle tear
  • Achilles tendonitis
  • Groin strain

Whiplash Injury

Any injury requiring Massage

What do I need to know about my appointments?

  • Arrive for treatment sessions at the scheduled time or a few minutes early so you are prepared. Late arrival may affect not only your 1-on-1 time with the therapist, but that of other patients in the clinic.
  • Actively participate in the discussion to determine visit frequency and work in partnership with the physical therapist to achieve your treatment goals.
  • Show up for appointments. Failure to show for an appointment and not calling to cancel the visit may result in a fee and is disruptive to the physical therapist’s schedule. If an emergency prevents you from attending, try to provide adequate notice. It is important to review the facility’s financial and cancellation policy prior to the start of treatment.
  • If you plan to discontinue therapy or change the frequency of treatment because of personal or financial considerations, discuss this with your physical therapist.

You will get out of therapy what you put into it. Sufficient effort, as agreed between you and the physical therapist, is necessary to get maximize benefit from each treatment session.

When do I pay?

This may vary. If you are a private pay patient, you can choose to pay at each individual treatment session, or if a number of sessions are required, you may purchase a package. If you are using an insurance company then we will collect based on information received from your insurance company at the time of service.

You can pay with cash, check, credit or debit card.

Can I be treated without insurance?

Yes, we accept patients without insurance. Please contact our clinic at (650) 947-8500 to ask about cost and availability.

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