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How to pick the right physiotherapist

Paul Kochoa, PT, DPT, OCS, CGFI


First, with the Direct Access law, you can go see a physiotherapist without having to see a physician. And you have your choice of who to see, you don’t have to see the physiotherapist that the doctor told you to see.  You’re a health consumer, you should shop around to get the best care for your dollar.

So how do you choose the right one?  Here’s some tips:

Pick one that see only one patient per hour.  Most clinics don’t advertise how many patients they schedule per hour.  Would you see any other service that splits your time with other clients? How about an accountant that see three people at once? You should try and treat your body better than your tax returns.  Most clinics accept insurance and are in-network.  The problem with our healthcare system is that reimbursement for this service is declining.  The problem with this business model is that for these clinics to make any profit, they have to make it up in volume, seeing more patients per hour.  I’ve worked in these settings and it doesn’t matter how skilled a physiotherapist is, it’s difficult to apply that skill when you’re trying to treat multiple patients at once.

Pick someone that specializes in hands-on treatment.  If you’re seeing a physiotherapist and the majority of the time, you’re just sitting or lying down with some ice or heat on your body, and then doing some simple exercise, then you’re going to the wrong place.  Manual therapy is shown to be more effective than just regular exercise.  Hands-on care such as Dry Needling, Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization, or Myofascial release can be instrumental in reseting the body and getting it to heal from an injury or to abolish pain.

Know what the letters after the name means.  Physiotherapists usually have some letters after their name.  Make some sense of this alphabet soup.  Ask them what the letters mean.  For example:  PT (Physical Therapist), DPT (Doctor of Physical Therapy), OCS (Orthopedic Clinical Specialist), MTC (Manual Therapy Certification), CSCS (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist), COMT (Certified Orthopedic Manual Therapist), FAAOMPT (Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Manual Physical. Therapy), CGFI (Certified Golf Fitness Instructor), etc…  This way, you know you’re seeing the right person that’s right for your particular issue.

If you’re into specialized sports or exercise, ask them how much they can snatch, or run, or lift, or whatever….  If you’re into running marathons, ask your prospective physiotherapist what was their last race PR. Or if you’re into Crossfit, ask them how much then can snatch or deadlift.  Asking the physiotherapist these specific questions about your specific sport or activity gets you both on the same page, speaking the same language.  So if you’re into Olympic lifting, and your physiotherapist has no idea what a Jerk is, then you may be seeing the wrong person.

Keep these pointers in mind when shopping around for a physiotherapist. If you would like more information, please call Professional Physical Therapy and Training at 973-270-7417.  Our offices are located within the YMCA locations in Madison and Summit, NJ.  You do not need to be a member of the YMCA to visit us.



Image courtesy of jscreationzs /