For the First-Timer: What to Expect at Your First Visit


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!


Bethany Urquidez

DPT, COMT Stetson Village Clinic