Coming to physical therapy for the first time can be nerve-wracking. Either you have no idea what will happen or you’ve heard horror stories from friends. I’m here to give you some insight so you can make it to your appointment with a little less stress.

First, paperwork. Typically, even if you’ve filled out paperwork online (which is a good idea!) you will still have a few pages to fill out. No, we don’t get the forms you filled out from your doctor’s office. Yes, we plan on reading them. Remember, you’re going to a medical appointment and there is always paperwork.

Next, dress the part. This is a two-part suggestion. First, the therapist will need to be able to see the painful body part (and likely a little more). If you have shoulder pain, a baggy shirt or tank-top is smart. Knee pain? Don’t wear leggings as they’re difficult to roll up. Try wearing shorts. Back or neck pain? Make sure the collar of your shirt isn’t too tight. If you had a recent surgery, we’re going to have to see the incision site.

The second part of this suggestion has to do with performing activities. Your therapist is trying to find out what you can and cannot do functionally. If you are wearing heels and your therapist requests to see you squat, that can be uncomfortable. Tight clothes can restrict your range of motion. Not to say you need to be in your full active gear, but be ready to move!

And, finally, the number one question I receive on a patient’s first visit: will it hurt? Keep in mind we are here to make you feel better. It is not our goal to put you in more pain. That being said, coming to physical therapy (especially on your first visit) is similar to taking your car to the mechanic. You tell us the “noises” your body is making, but we have to “hear” the same noises. As much as we try to be gentle on the first visit, it is likely you are going to be sore. But, don’t worry. As long as you’re in communication with your therapist about what hurts, we’ll make your first visit as painless as possible.

On that note, remember this is not a “one and done” field of medicine. It takes a number of visits to get your body working in synch after it has been in pain, so expect to get to know us. Use that time to learn as much as you can about your body so you can continue to feel good after you are done with us.

Nothing can truly prepare you for the unknown, but hopefully, this answered a few of your questions. You are always welcome to call the physical therapy clinic and ask any specific questions you may have. Good luck with your first visit!

In our daily lives, we are constantly trying to find activities that keep us moving and healthy. There are many options, so we tend to migrate toward activities that suit us. For many, — including some of our licensed physical therapists — the answer is yoga.

Yoga is a convenient way to improve mobility and stability. However, many injure themselves while practicing. Often, these injuries occur because the person is pushing himself or herself too much, trying to look like other people in the room, or performing the activity without nurturing a previous injury.

To reduce injuries, you must be self-aware. You should be listening to your body when you’re stretching, when you feel pain, and when your body is telling you that it is working too hard. Until you have learned your body’s cues, the best course of action is to do less; less range of motion, less repetition, less speed.

Self-awareness is the foundation for proper yoga form. Unfortunately, we are not all privy to one-on-one lessons. You may be in a large class and the instructor is unable to watch everyone. Additionally, the instructor may not understand fully how the body works, which will lead to poor cues.

Once you have self-awareness down, keep in mind there are a lot of ways to improve your form and remain injury free. For example, the simple use of a mirror can help you see if you are fully upright, if your limb is cocked in an odd angle, or if you are falling out of form as you perform a pose.

Another way to improve your form is the use of props. There are a number of poses where I need to use a block for support due to poor muscle length. If you are performing these poses without the extra support, the muscle will end up working instead of stretching and the form will never improve. Using a block is an easy way to keep from straining a muscle. Another prop I use often is a blanket; I typically make use of this during the pigeon pose when my hip cannot reach the ground, but you can use it in numerous poses on the ground.

Finally, breathing correctly is a large part of performing poses correctly and remaining injury free. Although many of us giggle as the instructor says when to breathe deeply and they noisily demonstrate the action, it is of utmost importance to use the diaphragm and good rib mobility in order to maintain good trunk control. The diaphragm is an integral part of trunk stabilization and is used often in physical therapy to improve back pain. Rib mobility is important for good posture as well as trunk control. Many times the action of breathing correctly will not only help with yoga poses, but it will also improve your posture while working at the computer – a win-win.

Although yoga helps our bodies move and improves function in day-to-day activities, we must be careful to remain injury free. If you are having trouble with poses or feeling pain, it is a great idea to see a licensed physical therapist to assist with mobility, stability, and self-awareness in order to return to healthy activities. Find a Foothills Sports Medicine location near you to get started!