Physical Therapy Frequently Asked Questions

Physical Therapy Frequently Asked Questions

Do you have questions about the benefits of physical therapy, if it’s right for you and next steps? You’re in the right place.

FAQ Categories

  1. General Physical Therapy Questions
  2. Foot and Ankle Physical Therapy Questions
  3. Knee Physical Therapy Questions
  4. Neck Physical Therapy Questions
  5. Shoulder Physical Therapy Questions
  6. Hip Physical Therapy Questions
  7. Back and Spine Physical Therapy Questions
  8. Sports Medicine Physical Therapy Questions

General Physical Therapy Questions

What is physical therapy?

Physical therapy is an interactive, hands-on treatment approach. It involves the patient and the therapist working together to promote healing and eliminate the underlying problems, including pain, weakness, poor movement control and balance. It can address one area or multiple areas of the body.

Physical therapy includes:

  • Careful analysis of the underlying injury or problem
  • Custom techniques or treatments performed by the physical therapist to reduce pain and improve movement
  • Exercises to improve strength, joint motion, flexibility, balance and movement control

Physical therapy is more than just exercising. It’s rooted in western medicine and is based on scientific principles with applied knowledge of human anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, biomechanics, kinesiology (study of movement), psychology and neurology. It combines the diagnosis of specific conditions or injuries and analysis of movement with a personalized approach that considers a person’s psychological, social and family support situation for the best patient outcome.

What are the benefits of physical therapy?

Physical therapy has been shown to

  • Reduce pain
  • Decrease the need for surgery
  • Reduce the need for addictive medications
  • Improve long-term strength and movement
  • Allow patients to continue normal activities
  • Cut total medical costs by decreasing unnecessary tests and procedures

The greatest benefits of physical therapy happen when people go directly to the therapist before seeing their primary care provider. This allows the therapist to start patients on the road to recovery.

What to expect at physical therapy?

During the first appointment (the evaluation), your Doctor of Physical Therapy will ask specific questions to assess how your problem started or how an injury occurred. The answers to these questions guide the rest of the evaluation.

Then, the physical therapist does a careful examination including understanding pain and movement and performing special tests to not only diagnose your injury or problem but to identify the underlying cause of your condition. They will then discuss the diagnosis and the plan to get you moving normally again.

During the following appointments, the physical therapist at Excel Physical Therapy will work with you to address the underlying problems and eliminate pain and improve movement, strength and control.

This usually includes some type of hands-on stretching of muscles and joints, manipulation and mobilization (what some people call adjustments) and specific, focused exercises aimed at eliminating your problem. Treatment is adjusted and progressed each session based on how you respond to treatment.

Periodically the physical therapist will do a formal assessment of your progress to update the patient’s referring provider or as required by your insurance.

When therapy is complete, the physical therapist will give you recommendations and a home exercise program that you can do to keep the problem from returning or continue making progress.

What to wear to physical therapy?

If possible, we recommend wearing loose-fitting or elastic clothing for the evaluation.

Shorts are helpful for knee and ankle problems and tank tops are helpful for examination of the shoulder.

Athletic or casual shoe wear is helpful during treatment.

Unable to change before coming to your physical therapy session? No problem! The experienced physical therapist will work around any clothing limitations and make recommendations for future visits.

How long does physical therapy last?

At Excel Physical Therapy, physical therapy sessions typically last 45-60 minutes. We believe that gives us optimal time to address any problems.

If a physical therapy provider limits sessions to 20-30 minutes, sees multiple patients at one time or has aides or assistants that provide some of the care, there is not enough focus on the patient. At Excel Physical Therapy, you see your Doctor of Physical Therapy for the entire treatment and see the same therapist each time. Extended, one-on-one sessions allows for the best physical therapy care.

Most patients are seen 10-12 times, but the following factors can increase or decrease your number of sessions:

  • The type of problem or surgery you have had
  • The severity of the problem
  • How long the problem has been going on (the shorter the better)
  • Your ability to progress with your home exercises

Some problems require only a few sessions while others may require more than 20. Please call our office to discuss your problem with one of our staff to get a better idea of the number of sessions needed for your problem.

How much does physical therapy cost?

The total cost of physical therapy can vary depending on the problem, discounts negotiated by health insurance and individual health insurance coverage including deductibles and copay.

At Excel Physical Therapy, the cost of treatment usually ranges from around $90 to $120 per session.

Insurance coverage varies greatly. Some plans have copays or coinsurance from $15 to $30 while a small number of plans have higher copays ranging from $60 to $80. Excel Physical Therapy also has affordable payment options for people without insurance coverage or with high deductible plans.

The best way to estimate your cost of treatment is to contact our office with insurance information and the type of problem. The cost of physical therapy at Excel Physical Therapy is usually much less expensive per session compared to large medical systems or corporate providers that have higher approved insurance payments ranging from $250 to $400 per session.

What training do you need to be a physical therapist?

Currently physical therapy training includes four years of undergraduate education, often in a science or health-related field and three years of graduate school. Then, they need to pass a board exam to become a Doctor of Physical Therapy. A small number of physical therapists (11% nationally) go further to complete specialist training as a board-certified clinical specialist.

Excel Physical Therapy has a team of Doctors of Physical Therapy with board certifications in orthopedic physical therapy, keeping us the top-rated physical therapy in Oshkosh.

Do I need a referral for physical therapy?

A referral is not needed for physical therapy.

A small number of insurance companies still require a referral. If you need a referral, our staff can contact your primary care provider to see if they can obtain it without any delay or other provider visits needed.

Should I see my primary care provider before coming to physical therapy?

You do not need to see your primary care or specialist before coming to physical therapy. In fact, research shows that starting with a physical therapist is the fastest path to recovery with the least overall cost to the patient and medical system.

Is physical therapy covered by insurance?

Excel Physical Therapy is a provider for most major insurance plans. Call our office directly to determine if we are in network for your health insurance plan.

We will use our tax ID, registered with the insurance companies to assure that we are in plan. Some insurance companies do not maintain a complete and accurate listing of their in-network providers on their website, so checking online or even calling them yourself is not as accurate as contacting our office.

What if my insurance only approves a limited number of sessions?

Our physical therapists are usually able to get additional treatment sessions authorized by your insurance to meet your needs. There are some insurance companies that base treatment authorization based on arbitrary guidelines, not on your personal conditions.

Our staff at Excel Physical Therapy will work with you to avoid this. If insurance is still unwilling to authorize appropriate treatment, register a complaint with the human resource department at the job that provides coverage or call the Wisconsin Insurance Commissioner.

What is dry needling?

Dry needling is the use of a thin needle to work inside a muscle or painful area. Nothing is injected, which is why it is called “dry”. It helps reduce the sensitivity of the nerves and tissue and is thought to interfere with pain signals processing in the spinal cord and brain.

Excel Physical Therapy offers dry needling to treat painful muscles and joints in the neck, back, arms and legs. It is more specifically used for back pain, sciatica, plantar fasciitis, lateral epicondylitis and neck pain.

Do you need physical therapy for a broken ankle?

In some cases, ankle fractures do not require any physical therapy. However, most ankle sprains and fractures would benefit from physical therapy to assure that normal motion, balance and control of movement is regained in the ankle and rest of the leg.

People may resume normal walking and even sporting activities but still lack full motion, stability, control and strength, resulting in slight changes in movement that can lead to pain or injuries in the future.

Because a faster reaction to treatment can cause a faster recovery, it is best to call us right away to determine if physical therapy is right for you.

Do you need physical therapy after bunion surgery?

Physical therapy after bunion surgery is helpful to assure that adequate control of motion is achieved at the toe, foot and ankle to reduce pain with return to full activity.

We are ready to help you recover after your surgery. Contact Excel Physical Therapy today to schedule your first appointment.

Do you need physical therapy for a sprained ankle?

Mild sprains may not require any physical therapy. People with moderate or severe sprains would benefit from physical therapy.

If you are experiencing the following, you likely need physical therapy:

  • Severe pain
  • Swelling
  • Difficulty walking
  • Excessive, abnormal movement
  • Loss of motion, strength or control

Those individuals with multiple sprains should be evaluated in physical therapy for underlying problems that may be contributing to pain.

Do not hesitate to contact us for your first appointment. The sooner you go to physical therapy, the sooner you can recover and the more likely you can reduce reoccurring issues.

Does physical therapy work for plantar fasciitis?

Physical therapy can be helpful for treatment of plantar fasciitis.

Physical therapy for planter fasciitis may include:

  • Massage
  • Specific exercises to improve motion and strength in the entire leg
  • Dry needling
  • Arch taping
  • Orthotics (arch supports – custom or off the shelf)

Planter fasciitis is a challenging problem with multiple contributing factors. Even when those problems are understood, some problems are not easily eliminated. Excel Physical therapy will work with you to create a custom plan to reduce any issues.

Knee Physical Therapy Questions

Do you have therapists that specialize in knee pain?

Excel Physical Therapy has a team of board-certified orthopedic physical therapists who specialize in treatment of knee pain. They carefully evaluate and diagnose problems, including loss of knee motion and strength, pain and ligament sprains. They can order X-rays to aid in diagnosis of problems like arthritis or to rule out other underlying conditions.

Learn more about knee pain and how our Excel Physical Therapy offers the best physical therapy for knee pain.

How long is rehab for knee replacement?

Physical therapy after a knee replacement may vary depending on how quickly people are able to regain their motion. Knee rehabilitation usually lasts 6-8 weeks following a knee replacement. Treatment may begin at 2-3 times per week and be reduced to 1 time per week by the end of treatment. It is important to work to achieve adequate motion and strength of the knee, which may occur earlier or later than typical recoveries.

What do you do in physical therapy for knee?

Physical therapy for knee pain and injuries involves a careful analysis of movement, strength and control in the trunk, hip, knee and ankle. Problems in any of those areas can contribute to knee pain or injuries. Physical therapists often emphasize improving hip and knee strength and increased balance and control to reduce pain and decrease potential for future injury.

When do you start rehab after a grade 2 MCL sprain?

We recommend starting physical therapy immediately after a grade 2 MCL sprain. At Excel Physical Therapy, our therapists will begin to guide slow improvement of knee motion, work to improve the strength and control of the thigh (quadriceps) muscle and improve hip strength.

Ice, electrical stimulation and gentle exercise can begin immediately but protection of the healing ligament is needed. The physical therapist can control various aspects of the exercise to prevent excessive stress or delay healing.

If you need to start rehab for a grade 2 MCL sprain, please contact Excel Physical Therapy to schedule an appointment.

How much does physical therapy cost for knee?

Some knee problems, such as basic sprains, may only require three sessions and only cost a few hundred dollars. Treatment after a knee replacement or a ligament reconstruction or repair might require more extensive rehabilitation over $1,500. Total cost for the patient is affected greatly by their insurance coverage.

Does Medicare cover rehab after knee replacement?

Medicare covers physical therapy after a knee replacement. If the treatment is received in the hospital, nursing home or in-home health, patients may not have achieved adequate movement in the knee. Further treatment with a physical therapist is appropriate.

Neck Physical Therapy Questions

How long does physical therapy take for neck pain?

Eliminating or significantly reducing neck pain usually occurs over a period of 3-6 weeks. Chronic or degenerative conditions, like arthritis or radiating pain in the arms, may require additional treatment or further evaluation.

It is best to start physical therapy for neck pain as soon as possible for the speediest recovery. Please contact Excel Physical Therapy today to schedule an appointment.

How long is physical therapy for whiplash?

Whiplash is a complex injury that can involve the muscles, disc, joints of the neck and even the brain and brain stem. The duration of physical therapy after whiplash is variable. In general, the more severe the initial pain, the longer it will take to resolve.

Recover faster by starting your physical therapy for whiplash immediately. To schedule an appointment, contact Excel Physical Therapy today.

Is chiropractic or physical therapy better for neck pain?

Physical therapy is an effective way to manage and reduce recurrence of neck pain. People often believe they need a “chiropractic adjustment” or manipulation of the neck for sudden neck pain to “put something back in alignment”.

Physical therapists not only use manipulation, but also other techniques and exercises to address the underlying cause of neck pain. Treatments like manual therapy (mobilization/manipulation, massage), dry needling, electrical stimulation, correcting postural alignment and gentle range of motion exercises can reduce acute and chronic neck pain. At times patients utilize physical therapy and chiropractic treatment together.

Should I do physical therapy or massage therapy for neck pain?

Doing massage therapy for neck pain can help reduce the severity of acute neck pain and help muscles relax. But, strictly doing massage therapy will likely not solve the underlying problems, even after the severe pain is gone.

Excel Physical Therapy offers physical therapy for neck pain. We evaluate and address the movement and posture of the head, upper neck, neck and upper back, muscle tightness in the neck and shoulders to address the underlying cause of the pain.

Learn more about neck physical therapy and how we can eliminate reoccurring neck pain.

What is cervical traction in physical therapy?

Cervical traction can be a helpful treatment when nerves are compressed and irritated. It helps reduce pressure and improve blood flow around the nerve, reducing pain. However, cervical traction has not been shown to be helpful for many types of neck pain, including facet joint problems and arthritis. Your physical therapist will recommend treatment that is right for your neck pain.

Shoulder Physical Therapy Questions

Do you have physical therapists that specialize in shoulder pain?

Excel Physical therapists specialize in treatment of shoulder pain and injuries.  They restore movement and strength to get people back to normal activities without surgery or addictive medications.

If surgery is needed, our therapists specialize in progressing patients through post-operative recovery to restore full shoulder function and eliminate pain.

Learn more about our experience with shoulder pain and how we can help.

Does physical therapy help a frozen shoulder?

Physical therapy is very helpful in the treatment of a frozen shoulder (adhesive capsulitis).

Physical therapy for a frozen shoulder includes:

  • Stretching of the muscles and ligaments by the therapist
  • Specialized joint mobilization to restore normal joint movement

Consistent performance of a home exercise program is a critical part of treating a frozen shoulder. Generally, all shoulder strengthening exercises are eliminated during treatment for a frozen shoulder, as they can be a source of irritation and inflammation which may worsen the condition.

If you have a frozen shoulder, please contact Excel Physical Therapy today.

How long is physical therapy for frozen shoulder?

Frozen shoulder treatment with physical therapy can last for 6- 8 weeks, with more severe cases extending to 3-4 months. Most patients with frozen shoulders respond well to physical therapy, especially if treatment is started early. Physical therapists at Excel Physical Therapy may work with orthopedic surgeons or sports medicine physicians who can perform steroid injections to improve speed of recovery.

How long is rehab after shoulder surgery?

Treatment after a shoulder surgery varies greatly depending on the procedure.  Individuals that have a simple arthroscopy may regain full motion and strength after 3- 4 weeks. Patients who have undergone rotator cuff surgery may require treatment for 4-6 months, depending on the severity of the tear and their normal daily activities.

Is swimming good for shoulder rehab?

Doing exercises in the pool can be helpful after some shoulder surgeries.  Aquatic exercise can assist with regaining shoulder motion and does not appear harmful. Land-based exercise progression is still needed for the greatest functional improvement and return to full activity.

Learn more about shoulder rehab and physical therapy.

When to start physical therapy after rotator cuff surgery?

Physical therapy may start immediately after a rotator cuff repair. Physical therapy may be delayed 3-6 weeks based on the size and complexity of the repair. Some surgeons prefer to start physical therapy sooner while others routinely wait for 6 weeks before starting physical therapy.

How long is physical therapy for rotator cuff surgery?

Physical therapy after rotator cuff repair may last 3-6 months after surgery. It often begins at two times per week and then decreases to 2-4 times per month at the end of the treatment time. Even when there is no pain and good range of motion, patients who have had rotator cuff repair need careful progression of resistance exercises and activity due to potential to re-tear for up to six months postoperatively.

How soon after shoulder surgery should I start physical therapy?

It depends on what type of surgery is done. Physical therapy is often started the week after surgery, but some surgeons start treatment after 3-6 weeks.

Please contact Excel Physical Therapy to discuss your case and we can schedule you at the appropriate time.

Do I need surgery for a rotator cuff tear?

Research shows that many people with rotator cuff tears achieve excellent shoulder function with physical therapy and do not need surgery. Degenerative changes and tears in the rotator cuff are very common in people who have no shoulder pain or noticeable problems. Physical therapy should be considered first as a treatment option for rotator cuff tears.

Learn more about what to expect at shoulder rebab.

Hip Physical Therapy Questions

How many weeks of physical therapy after hip replacement?

The duration of physical therapy treatment after a hip replacement can be two weeks in a skilled nursing facility or home health but may extend to eight weeks in an outpatient facility, depending on the patient needs and surgeon preferences. Regardless of how long it takes, it is important to resume normal walking without pain or difficulty.

Is physical therapy required after hip replacement?

Most people who undergo hip replacement receive some physical therapy, but it depends on surgeon preferences.

Can physical therapy help hip bursitis?

Physical therapy can be helpful for hip bursitis. Exercise to improve strength, motion and control and mobilization of the joints and muscles can reduce the pain and address the underlying causes of hip bursitis. Dry needling can also be helpful. The physical therapists at Excel Physical Therapy perform a detailed evaluation to determine the cause of the symptoms.

What are common causes of hip pain?

There are many causes of hip pain. Many people think it is arthritis. However, common causes of hip pain include:

  • Bursitis
  • Iliotibial band problems due to tightness on the side of the hip
  • Pinching in the hip
  • Sciatica
  • Back problems

A thorough evaluation can identify the cause of hip pain so it can be properly treated.

Learn more about hip physical therapy and its how to treat it.

Back and Spine Physical Therapy Questions

What is physical therapy for back pain?

Physical therapy for low back pain may include the following:

  • Mobilization and manipulation (what some people call adjustments)
  • Stretching
  • Strengthening
  • Specific exercises to improve motion in tight areas of your spine and joints

Dry needling and electrical stimulation can help reduce pain. Our therapists address the underlying movement, strength and control limitations to eliminate low back pain and prevent it from coming back.

Learn more about back physical therapy.

Does physical therapy help arthritis in the back?

Arthritis can contribute to low back pain. However, while most people attribute their low back pain to arthritis, there are usually multiple problems that can be the cause. Often tight joints and areas of the spine around the arthritis increase stress and pain in the area.  Most of these problems can be significantly improved with physical therapy treatment.

Learn more about the benefits of back physical therapy.

How does physical therapy help back pain?

Physical therapy reduces low back pain by improving movement, strength, stability and quality of motion in the hips, pelvis and low back, reducing the abnormal pressure on the painful areas.

Pain is also reduced by decreasing the pain sensitivity with:

  • Exercises
  • Mobilization
  • Manipulation of the spine and pelvis
  • Dry needling performed by a physical therapist
    1. Do you have physical therapists that specialize in back pain?

Excel Physical Therapists have extensive experience and specialized training to treat low back pain. We focus on addressing the underlying problems that contribute to the low back pain to keep it from coming back.

Learn more about our experience with back pain and how we can help you.

What does physical therapy do for sciatica pain?

While many people believe that sciatica is caused by compression of a nerve in the low back, it is actually chemical irritation around the nerve that produces the pain.

Sciatica can be caused by problems in multiple areas of the low back and pelvis. Physical therapy can reduce the irritation of the nerves around a herniated disc, joints of the spine or muscles that are causing sciatica. Physical therapy for sciatica pain works by reducing the inflammation and pressure around the nerves, through stretching, manipulation and stabilization exercises. Nerve mobility exercises help to reduce irritation and help the nerve glide normally, reducing the pain of sciatica.

If you experience sciatica pain, please contact Excel Physical Therapy today.

Can physical therapy help herniated discs?

Herniated discs are very common in many individuals with no low back pain. Research has shown that herniated discs can heal or decrease in size with appropriate treatment. Physical therapy reduces the pressure on a degenerative or herniated disc and improves the strength and stability around it by building improved strength and control with specialized exercises.

What do you wear to physical therapy for back?

When going to back physical therapy, we recommend wearing comfortable, loose-fitting or elastic clothing to allow the physical therapist to easily evaluate your back and any joints that may contribute to low back pain.

What to expect at physical therapy for lower back pain?

Physical therapy for low back pain begins with a thorough evaluation of the symptoms, movement of the spine and joints, strength, sensation, and screening for medical conditions that may be the cause of low back pain.

After the diagnosis, problems are identified and treated with the following:

  1. Manual therapy (a direct hands on approach to mobilizing or manipulating the spine or tissue)
  2. Exercises to improve the balance and quality of spine movement
  3. Strengthening or stabilization exercises

This improves the ability of the body to move with good control and reduces stress on the low back, reducing or eliminating back pain.

To schedule an appointment for back physical therapy, contact Excel Physical Therapy today.

Sports Medicine Physical Therapy Questions

What is sports physical therapy?

Sports physical therapy is focused on returning someone to a high level of movement, strength, balance and control to help the optimize their performance and ability in physically demanding and often competitive conditions.

Sports physical therapy is most common for:

  1. Athletes
  2. Law enforcement
  3. Fire and rescue teams
  4. Construction workers
  5. Healthcare personnel

At each step of recovery, treatment is tailored to help individuals return to high demand activity.

Learn more about sports physical therapy and how it can help you.

What is the difference between sports medicine and physical therapy?

Sports medicine is a broad term that may include medical treatment, athletic training and physical therapy to address patients’ needs at different points of injury and recovery.

Medical care and athletic training address immediate medical needs of athletes.  Physical therapists are experts in rehabilitating athletes after the immediate medical needs are addressed. The focus is on healing, restoring normal movement and strength to allow the individual to return to their activities at a high level of performance with reduced risk of re-injury.