How Do You Know If Physical Therapy Is Working?

By Ben Loomis – DSC_9441.jpg, CC BY 2.0,

Optimizing movement and restoring function is the purpose of physical therapy. You may feel “back to normal” after completing physical therapy following an accident or surgery. But sometimes you might have been dealing with a disability for so long that you forget what “normal” feels like. For this purpose, to assess your degree of progress and when you have achieved your optimal improvement level, therapists use a matrix of variables.

Your physical therapist will consider three key areas of evaluation when assessing your clinical completeness:

Patient-based feedback and survey questionnaires

Patients respond to survey-like questions in these tests about how effective they believe their therapy has been. “I feel I ‘m back to my usual level of functioning” would look like a standard query, and the patient would score their level of agreement with the statement. These types of tests provide subjective performance results which provide valuable input on the perception of improvement by the patient. Survey questionnaires are also validated by analysis and are used to enhance clinical decisions in conjunction with the details below.

Objective Tests and Measures

The next way a physical therapist can assess your level of progress is to gather concrete, hard facts, such as range of motion, intensity and endurance, if you have achieved the best possible result. Using an isokinetic dynamometer (e.g. Bidoex) is one of the strongest mechanisms the physical therapists at Orlando Sports Medicine have to assess the total strength of a patient. There are devices that calculate and provide precise strength factors that are used by physical therapists to assess the recovery level and muscle function. A Biodex test excludes from the intensity evaluation all subjectivity.

To compare the numbers produced by this machine with your baseline data collected at the beginning of your therapy, your therapist can use it to compare your results with population expectations to determine the effectiveness of your therapy. Not every PT clinic has access to these types of machines, so before starting your therapy, inquire about availability.

Assessment of Functional Movement and Tasks

Finally, there are a range of tests of functional movement that physical therapists use to assess enhancement. Your therapist can ask you to squat, lunge, leap, pivot, run or do other complex exercises in order to perform these evaluations. Conducting these tasks at varying levels of intensity without discomfort, swelling, or reimbursement helps your therapist assess your overall success and willingness to return to work, practice or play.

Combining all three methods of measuring patient outcomes offers a more complete, less subjective view of the overall improvement of the patient and allows the therapist to better assess when physical therapy has been completed by a patient. In treating their patients, the therapists at Orlando Sports Medicine use all three strategies.

Are You Looking for Relief From Neck Pain? 

Pace Physical Therapy in San Jose, California specializes in non-surgical neck pain relief and recovery therapies.  We pride ourselves on offering the best possible physical therapy available and going above and beyond for our patients. Our highly experienced physical therapist will work with you to improve your function and relieve your pain. We start by assessing the body as a whole. Oftentimes the cause of pain or an injury extends far beyond just the body part or muscle hurting. Without taking a comprehensive look at your entire self, we would be doing you a disservice in fully helping you heal and preventing future limitations. We then move on to fixing your areas of limitation.  Not all diagnoses are created equal. One person with neck pain may have completely different limitations than the next person. Your recovery program needs to be specific to what YOUR body needs and not just the typical exercise program that you can find online. Just because your pain decreases or you can walk longer doesn’t mean that it is enough to get you functioning at the level you want to be. While this often signifies the end of care at your typical PT clinic we don’t stop providing guidance until we help you successfully meet every goal you set for yourself with us on day one. Contact us today to schedule your appointment!