Physical therapy can be an effective form of treatment for many conditions. It helps reduce inflammation and pain symptoms so that people can live more comfortable, independent lives. It’s used to treat people recovering from surgery or injuries, people with restricted mobility, and people who experience chronic pain for any number of reasons.
Unfortunately, many people avoid seeking physical therapy because they’re too busy. “How long is a physical therapy session?” they ask on the phone when they call the physical therapy clinic, trying to determine if they can fit treatment into an already hectic schedule. We can’t blame them — people are busy.
However, we believe in the value of physical therapy, so we’ve compiled this guide to help you understand that it’s worth your time.
How long are physical therapy sessions?
Most physical therapy sessions last between 30 and 90 minutes, although the exact length depends on many factors. Your clinic’s pricing model and the type of treatment you’re receiving can affect the length of your session. The severity of your condition is another factor; your therapist may schedule a longer session if you have a lot of difficulty moving, as exercises will likely take longer and you’ll need more breaks.
How many times per week is physical therapy?
Most physical therapists recommend two to three sessions per week for at least two to three weeks to start, although treatment plans vary in length depending on the severity of symptoms. Some injuries and surgeries require several months of treatment. Some people cut back to one session per week to incorporate more rest into their treatment schedule. Most treatment plans include stretches and exercises performed at home in between sessions.
What happens during a physical therapy session?
Every physical therapy session is different, but most sessions include one or more of the following components:
- Assessment — During the assessment portion of your session, your physical therapist will assess your symptoms to determine the source of your discomfort. They will physically examine your body, ask you questions about your symptoms, and assess your medical history in an attempt to figure out what is wrong. Your therapist will also perform assessments throughout the course of your treatment to determine whether your treatment plan is working.
- Diagnosis — Once your physical therapist determines the source of your pain, they will build a customized treatment plan to help you manage your symptoms. Their recommendations will include stretches and exercises designed to strengthen your muscles, improve your flexibility, reduce inflammation, and relieve pain. Your treatment may also include posture and movement coaching designed to correct any bad habits that are causing you pain or preventing you from recovering from an injury or surgery.
This is the state where you’ll find out how long your physical therapy sessions will be and how many sessions you’ll attend per week (although the exact schedule can always change over time).
- Implementation — This is the phase that most people think of when they imagine physical therapy. Your therapist will walk you through your stretches and exercises, coaching you on how to hold your posture to maximize the benefits. If your treatment plan involves manual therapy, your therapist will perform it during this phase. At-home exercises are a component of almost every treatment plan, so your physical therapist may assign you stretches and other activities to perform in between your sessions.
Do you need to prepare for physical therapy?
You can prepare for your first physical therapy session by gathering any medical documents (lab tests, etc.) that pertain to the condition your physical therapist is treating. You should have a list of any medications or supplements you take. You should also prepare to answer questions about your medical history and family medical history; it helps to bring notes or documentation so you don’t forget. Aside from that, make sure to wear comfortable clothing, as you’ll likely be moving around a lot.
What to do after your physical therapy sessions
After your appointment, it’s good to stay moving for an hour or more if possible. You’ll likely have increased blood flow after moving around in your session, and continued movement will help your body send more white blood cells and nutrients to any injured or painful areas of your body.
Get plenty of rest, too, as our muscles and joints regrow and repair themselves when we’re sleeping.
Don’t have time for physical therapy? Try virtual physical therapy!
If physical therapy sessions sound too long for your schedule, virtual PT could be the perfect solution for you. You can meet with your clinician online from the comfort of your own home using your desktop computer or mobile device. It completely eliminates the commute to your therapist’s clinic, giving you more time for other tasks.
Interested in virtual physical therapy? Contact our team today for more information or to schedule an initial appointment.