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What To Look For in a Physical Therapist

by | Jun 13, 2018 | Ankle & Foot Problems, Back Pain Buffalo, Lower Back Pain, Neck & Back Injuries | 7 comments

Physical therapists treat people with a wide variety of injuries and illnesses.  Some treat people with neurologic injuries from events such as a stroke or heat trauma while others treat musculoskelatal conditions that may be causing you a great deal of discomfort and pain. They are a great option for helping you get movement back in areas of your body that may be restricted due to pain or other impairment.  When you realize that your condition is not improving and you need to seek treatment from a PT there are some options to consider. You may be intimidated by the process of choosing one if you have never been to a physical therapist before. The good news is finding a physical therapist in Western New York does not have to be a challenge, because all you need to do is ask a few questions and you will know you have found the right therapist for you.

Question Their Qualifications to Provide Physical Therapy

Similar to any other health profession, physical therapists are governed by strict standards of service and all practitioners have to maintain a license to practice. All physical therapists in New York must be licensed by the state to practice on patients and conform to the guidelines of the State Board for Physical Therapy. Confirming that your physical therapy office is accredited should take you seconds. Checking their website or a quick phone to the office should answer your questions.

Confirm Their Area of Expertise

Different physical therapists have different areas of expertise, so it is vital that you ask beforehand for a therapist that specializes in neck injuries, back pain, dizziness and vertigo, general orthopedic injuries, neurologic injuries, pediatrics, etc. before you start your sessions. Physical therapists work on all areas of the body, but they receive extra education in the areas they specialize in. Many physical therapists have one or more advanced certifications in certain areas of practice to further their expertise.  Just as you would not go to a cardiologist for help with a brain injury, you want to choose the right professional for you. For instance, a musculoskeletal physical therapist specializes in back pain and neck injuries, whereas a cardiovascular physical therapist helps recovering heart bypass patients.

Ask About Treatment Methods

When treating things like back pain and neck injuries physical therapists will often prescribe some type of stretching and strength training to address impairments revealed in your examination.  Many PT offices offer movement and massage techniques to assist in restoring movement and reduce pain. Some physical therapists will also use alternative treatments such as reflexology, acupuncture, and hydrotherapy. If you are interested in an alternative treatment to compliment the physical therapy you receive from your physical therapist then you should ask upfront about what the office can provide. Keep in mind that your insurance may not cover alternative treatments, and their effectiveness has not been fully proven.

Consider Location

It stands to reason that you will want to choose a physical therapy office that is close to you, especially if you are in pain. You do not want to make a long drive in pain on a regular basis, and sometimes people feel pain when they leave the office as well. Many times, there is pain during the process of regaining movement, but the pain eventually leads to a resolution of issues and is therefore worth the short-term effect. If you need someone else to drive to you to physical therapy following surgery or painful neck injuries, it will be more convenient to choose an office close to your home.

Scheduling That Fits Your Needs

Finally, you need to consider the availability of any physical therapy office you are looking into. Some physical therapists offer evening or early morning hours, which can be a necessity if you are employed full time during the day.  Rarely will you find a PT office open on the weekend but it never hurts to look.  Other offices may be booked and will be forced to place you on a waitlist. When you are in pain the last thing you want to do is wait, and for certain types of neck injuries, back pain, and when starting treatment post-operatively, prompt treatment is essential for an effective and sustainable recovery.  You want to choose an office that can schedule you promptly and offer you the flexibility you need to make physical therapy work for you.


  1. Duncan Lance

    It really does help to ask about the physical therapist’s treatment methods. After all, if you are going to agree to be treated by them, you will want to know what you can expect from treatment. In fact, it might even help to ask about specific treatment options for the kind of problem that you are currently experiencing.

    • Matt Smith

      Totally agree. Not all physical therapists skill sets are the same. Patients needs vary and as such, treatment options need to be considered. Thanks for reaching out!

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