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Q&A: What Should I Expect at My First Physical Therapy Appointment?

I'm starting physical therapy soon. What will happen at my first appointment with a physical therapist?

Your first appointment with your physical therapist is arguably the most important. Your therapist will ask you a detailed history of your injury. The subjective portion, or the question portion of the evaluation, is invaluable.

At that point, you will be asked questions like: When did the injury begin, how long has it been going on, what makes it better/what makes it worse, and what are your goals for PT. For an injured runner, it is critical to determine how long your injury has been going on and what your goals are in terms of training schedules and upcoming races.

At HSS, we will then perform a functional movement assessment to see how well you are able to stand on one leg, squat, and do a step up or step down. We will perform specific tests and measurements in order to determine the source of the pain, and to ensure that there are no red or yellow flags. Red and yellow flags are positive results to tests or questions that one might not expect with certain diagnoses.

We will then assess your range of motion, strength, and flexibility. Once that is done, your physical therapist will explain your impairments and how to work on improving them.

Before your visit ends, you will be given an exercise program that you can begin to implement at home. You and your therapist will then determine the frequency of your PT visits. Each subsequent visit will build on the findings from the initial evaluation.


Julie Khan

Julie Khan is a physical therapist with HSS Rehabilitation. She graduated from Columbia University with a masters and doctorate in physical therapy and has her Board Certification in Sports Physical Therapy. Her clinical interests include post-surgical sports-related injuries and running mechanics. An avid runner herself, Julie enjoys rehabilitating runners and helping them get back to their sports safely and even stronger than before. She is a USATF Level 1 Coach as well as a Road Runners Club of America certified coach. She has completed more than 20 half-marathons and eight marathons.

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