What Is Involved In A Physical Therapy Evaluation?

By Ben Loomis – DSC_9441.jpg, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=73875056

You might feel anxious about the prospect of getting physical therapy if you don’t know what to expect. Worrying about seeing a new health care provider is natural. But please read on to get a better idea of what to expect and how you can get the most benefit from your treatment. Physical therapy’s future advantages far outweigh any fears you might have.


A physical therapist (PT) is a highly trained and certified health care provider who can expertly direct you through an illness , accident, or surgery to avoid or recover.

Your doctor can refer you to a physical therapist if you have pain or trouble moving and going about your daily activities, maybe after an illness, sports-related injury, or accident.

Your physical therapist will address your personal situation on your first appointment and develop a plan designed to help you strengthen and heal your body.

PT sessions have three elements, according to the United States Physical Therapy Association:

  • Assessment and examination
  • Diagnosis
  • Implementation of a treatment plan

The therapist will continue to use all these components throughout your treatment process.

What is the physical therapy assessment and examination? 

With a very detailed inspection, your first visit will begin. The therapist begins by telling you about your situation with questions. Through your PT, you need to be truthful and transparent so that your care plan will be the most effective.

You will cover questions such as:

  • Where are you feeling pain?
  • What is the level of pain?
  • What is your health history?

The next step will involve you getting up and moving. You will be evaluated on your:

  • Strength
  • Range of motion
  • Flexibility
  • Posture
  • Mobility
  • Balance
  • Coordination
  • Skin integrity
  • Muscle function

This is not a test to pass or fail. Your PT is learning how your everyday life and activities are influenced by your illness. The PT can also take your blood pressure and use his or her hands to determine where you have pain, as part of your test. To evaluate the condition of your joints , muscles, and tissues, the PT can palpate and move you through different motions.

Tip: Ensure that you wear comfortable clothes in which you can move easily. Your therapist might want to be able to see where you feel pain in the area. If you are having shoulder or arm discomfort, wear short sleeves. If you feel pain in your thighs, wear shorts.

What is the physical therapy diagnosis process?

Your PT will help assess a diagnosis and then, as part of your health care team, work in concert with your doctor.

Together with your PT for your physical therapy appointments, you can set targets. Many physical counselors will concentrate on helping you return to a better quality of life. You will need to concentrate on:

  • Reducing pain
  • Restoring mobility
  • Regaining daily function

Your PT will help you understand what’s going on with your condition and how it will interact with your care plan. You should understand what you need to do to achieve your goals with their help.

Tip: Ask plenty of questions of your own. When you realize what’s going on in your body, you will be able to produce better results.

What therapies may be in the treatment plan?

It is time to start working after you have finished the test and have a recovery plan in place. During your session, your therapist can choose to use a range of activities.

Therapeutic modalities

Various strategies that can help you achieve strength, comfort and mobility are therapeutic modalities. Your PT can need to increase blood flow, help with flexibility, decrease swelling, boost relaxation, or control your levels of pain.

Your therapist may use:

  • Heat
  • Ice
  • Water
  • Laser
  • Electrical stimulation
  • Dry needling
  • Ultrasound

Speak to your PT and make sure you understand how they can support you with these therapies. Ask what you are going to feel and what outcomes to expect. 

Massage and mobilization

Hands-on joint and soft tissue massage and mobilization can be included in your treatment plan. In order to alleviate discomfort and stimulate blood flow, the therapist should knead and rub the soft tissue. To increase your range of motion and flexibility, your joints and muscles can be shifted by the therapist through different stretches.


Exercise will be the cornerstone of the recovery plan. Your PT will walk you through particular stretches and activities designed to help you move and feel stronger.

You might use state-of-the-art equipment, including bikes and treadmills, or basic workout equipment. All the activities you do during your session will be overseen by your PT. You can work with an assistant in physical therapy as well.

A collection of exercises to do at home will be given to you. To help you recover quicker, these at-home exercises are used. You may not see your PT regularly, but you can see improved outcomes as you complete the at-home exercises. How much you can do your at-home workouts will be addressed with you by your PT.

Tip: Turn up ready to provide the best for your counseling sessions. Ask your PT for advice on how to treat pain. As part of the natural healing process , it is important to learn from your PT what to expect.

Your physical therapist will work with you to decide how much and how long you need therapy. When the body adapts to new movements, the first few sessions are always the hardest.

Be prepared, as you go along, to celebrate your achievements. Recovery can take months to years, but every week you should see a difference. Give yourself a pat on the back, take time!

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!