Most people who need physical therapy have developed an illness or acquired an injury that causes pain or disability. Whether your primary physician has referred you or you have scheduled an appointment directly with a local physical therapist, you may be wondering what to expect at your first appointment. Not to worry; this is pretty common. In this blog article, I will walk you through the usual process during your initial physical therapy appointment.

Let’s start with some common questions you may have about your first physical therapy appointment:


QUESTION: How long will an initial physical therapy appointment take?

ANSWER: The first session with your physical therapist will usually take between 60-90 minutes.


QUESTION: What should you bring to your first physical therapy appointment?

ANSWER: When attending your first appointment, remember to bring the following:

  • your ID, 

  • insurance card / information (if your provider accepts insurance)

  • a list of the medications you are currently taking

  • your referral (unless your doctor has already faxed it in)

  • any recent lab reports and/or information from your doctor involving details from a surgery, MRI or X-ray results


QUESTION: What should you wear to your first physical therapy appointment?

ANSWER: It’s important that you wear clothes that are comfortable. Your physical therapist will need to evaluate your level of your strength, posture, flexibility, balance and coordination; so your session may include some stretches and a few moderate exercises. I recommend you dress as if you’re going to the gym.


Your Initial Physical Therapy Appointment: What To Expect

An Initial Evaluation

As I mentioned, the first physical therapy appointment that you attend will begin with an initial evaluation. Your physical therapist will have a discussion with you in which they will ask you several questions about your condition, the symptoms that you are experiencing, when they started, and how your present condition is affecting you on a daily basis. They will also ask you about your goals and what you hope to achieve from your treatment protocol.  This is necessary in order for your physical therapist to understand what you are dealing with, and so that they can develop a treatment plan specifically tailored for you.

A Physical Assessment

After the initial evaluation, your physical therapist will perform a physical assessment to measure  the impairments that may be causing your problem or that may be affected by your injury. Common measurements taken during an initial physical therapy assessment include:

  • Palpation

  • Range of motion (ROM) measurements

  • Strength

  • Mobility and Movement Patterns

  • Balance

  • Flexibility

  • Posture

  • Neurological screening tests

Don’t worry, during the physical assessment, your physical therapist will be guiding you and giving you clear instructions about what to do.

Developing a Treatment Plan

Lastly, your physical therapist will create a treatment plan based on your needs, and discuss the goals and outcomes with you. Generally, the goal of physical therapy is to improve or restore a patient’s physical functionality, mobility, and strength, as well as work on pain management, but ultimately, they want to help provide you with the tools to live a pain free and unrestricted life.

Your physical therapy treatment may include the following:

  • Follow-up sessions involving exercises and/or stretches guided by your therapist

  • Development of an at-home exercise program, designed specifically for you

  • Massage, heat, or cold therapy, warm water therapy, electrical stimulation, or ultrasound to ease muscle pain or spasms; these are known as therapeutic modalities

  • Education about activity modification, which simply means modifying your daily activity (if necessary) based on your diagnosis and/or your medical condition.

  • Practice with assistive devices that help you move or stay balanced, like crutches or walker (if applicable)

As you can see, there is nothing to fear or worry about when it comes to your first PT appointment. Physical therapy is a collaborative effort that occurs between the patient and the therapist (and sometimes, other healthcare practitioners). Your physical therapist is not there to “fix” you, but they are there to help you in your healing process, and ensure that you have the tools necessary to manage and excel in your day to day life

Still have questions? Would you like to book an appointment?

If you would like more information or would like to speak to an experienced physical therapist in Miami, Florida, you can contact me via phone at (305)-982-7595, via email at, or simply fill out an online form. To schedule an appointment, click here.

If you enjoyed this blog article or have a specific question about it, shoot me a comment below!