woman in physical therapy
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Pick the Right Pro

Just like your doctor, you want a physical therapist who has experience with your condition. Ask questions about his background, the plan for your therapy, any special equipment you'll need, and how long your treatment will last. You should be able to talk comfortably about what's going on during your sessions.

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physical therapist looking at charts
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Come Prepared

Bring a list of your meds to your first appointment and any X-rays or MRIs. Make notes ahead of time about your symptoms, such as which movements cause pain and when the problem started. That will help your physical therapist identify your condition and design your treatment plan.

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woman tying shoes
3 / 10

Dress the Part

Wear comfortable clothes and shoes with non-skid soles, even for your first visit. Your therapist may move the joint that's bothering you to test how well it works or check how you walk, get up out of a chair, or do other motions. If he assigns you exercises to do at home right away, he'll watch you do them to make sure your form is right.

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woman playing tennis
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Set Goals

What do you want to be able to do after rehab? Get out of a chair more easily? Play tennis again? Know what your target is and make sure your physical therapist does, too. He'll tailor your treatment with your goals in mind. Short-term gains are important, too. Celebrate each step along the way, no matter how small.

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woman stretching
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Do Your Homework

Your therapist may give you exercises to do at home between appointments. It's important to do them. A lot of the benefit from rehab comes from the work you put in on your own, away from the clinic.

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tired woman after workout
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Don't Overdo It

Keep up with your homework, but follow your therapist's instructions to the letter. If you add more weight and reps, or exercise more often than you're told to, you won't heal any faster. You might even set your recovery back or get a new injury.

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woman writing
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Take Notes

Be an active partner in your rehab. Log details about how you feel during your home exercises. Tell your therapist if you hurt or get tight or weak during your routines. It will help him keep tabs on your progress.

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pain pills
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Manage Pain

It's important to stick with your therapy, but don't ignore your body's warning signals. Talk to your PT about any discomfort, and ask for tips to deal with it.

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woman icing her knee
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Hot or Cold?

Check with your therapist about whether a heating pad or ice pack is better for you. Heat relaxes sore muscles, increases blood flow, and improves your range of motion. Cold slows your circulation, which helps control inflammation and swelling. Both can ease pain. But remember, they only give temporary help. Neither one is a long-term solution to your problem.

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woman in whirlpool
10 / 10


You may find a good soak eases your muscle strain and soreness. It also increases your blood flow and helps cut pain that's linked to inflammation.

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 08/03/2020 Reviewed by Tyler Wheeler, MD on August 03, 2020

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10) Getty Images

Kidshealth.org: "Physical Therapy."

American Physical Therapy Association: "Preparing for Your Visit with a Physical Therapist."

AnMed Health Medical Center: "Rehabilitation."

Arthritis Foundation: "Physical Therapy for Arthritis," "Warm Water Works Wonders on Pain."

The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research: "How to Get The Most out of Physical Therapy for Parkinson's Disease."

Baylor Scott & White Health: "Getting the Most of Your Physical Therapy Visits."

University of Rochester Medical Center: "When to Use Hot and Cold Therapy."

Choosingwisely.org: "Physical Therapy."

Hanz, T. The Journal of the American College of Clinical Wound Specialists, Jan. 22, 2013.

Reviewed by Tyler Wheeler, MD on August 03, 2020

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.