4 Gifts You Should Avoid Giving Your Physical Therapist

If you have an injury or illness that results in difficulty moving around, then you may benefit from the skilled services of a physical therapist (PT) to help you recover fully. Hopefully, you have a positive physical therapy experience where you can ask a lot of questions to learn about your condition. You and your physical therapist should have a therapeutic alliance where you are both working to improve your functional mobility during your rehabilitation. And when your rehab is complete, you may be wonder how to best show your gratitude to your PT.

A physical therapist and patient consult.
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Gifts to Avoid

You may want to give your physical therapist a gift to thank him or her for helping you during your rehabilitation. If you require physical therapy over the holiday season, you may feel compelled to give your physical therapist a gift to express your gratitude. Or, you may wish to give your physical therapist a gift to celebrate National Physical Therapy Month. (It's in the month of October.) If so, here are a few things that should be avoided as gifts for your physical therapist. Not every gift is an appropriate gift for your PT.

  1. Cash: After your rehabilitation has ended or when you are leaving the hospital after an injury, you may feel that a small monetary gift to your physical therapist is in order. You should avoid this at all costs. Many physical therapists who work in the hospital are not allowed to accept any monetary gifts, and most are required to return the gift money or donate the money to a charity. Cash is never a good idea for a gift for a healthcare provider.
  2. Alcohol: Your physical therapist works with you to help you move better and feel better after injury or illness. He or she should teach you how to engage in positive lifestyle behaviors to maintain appropriate wellness and health. A glass of wine here or there can have positive benefits on the body, but alcohol carries with it the stigma of negative health effects. Sure, your PT may have a drink from time to time, but you should refrain from offering alcohol as a gift to your physical therapist. 
  3. Gift card for a chiropractor: This should go without saying, but you should not give your physical therapist a gift card to a local chiropractor. A physical therapy myth is that physical therapists and chiropractors do not get along, but this is just not true. Still, your PT probably does not need a chiropractic adjustment.
  4. Gym membership: Your physical therapist most likely has access to decent fitness equipment in his or her clinic. Even if your PT works in a hospital, many rehabilitation centers have fitness and gym-type equipment that they can access. Your physical therapist likely has the necessary equipment to work on hip strength or shoulder range of motion, so there is no need for a gym membership.

So What Gift Should You Give to Your PT?

If you wish to express your gratitude to your physical therapist for helping you during your recovery after injury, the best gift is a well-written card expressing your thanks. Be sure to address the card to your PT, but make sure that your physical therapist's supervisor is aware of your sentiments.

If writing a card is not your thing, a genuine heartfelt "thank you" is appropriate during your final physical therapy appointment.

If you feel compelled to express your gratitude in some sort of monetary way, consider making a donation to a local charity in your physical therapist's name. This has the benefit of expressing your thanks to your physical therapist while helping other people in your community.

A Word From Verywell

Your physical therapist should take pride in working hard with you during your rehabilitation, and helping you optimize your functional mobility is a rewarding part of the job. No gift that you can give your PT can match the satisfaction of helping people move better and feel better after injury.

1 Source
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  1. Snopek L, Mlcek J, Sochorova L, et al. Contribution of Red Wine Consumption to Human Health ProtectionMolecules. 2018;23(7):1684. doi:10.3390/molecules23071684

By Brett Sears, PT
Brett Sears, PT, MDT, is a physical therapist with over 20 years of experience in orthopedic and hospital-based therapy.