How Long Physical Therapy Programs Take

How long will physical therapy take is a common question asked by many patients. Although the question itself is a simple one, the answer is much more difficult. Remember, each and every person is different, and many factors may play into determining your overall prognosis and length of physical therapy. So how long does it take?

Disabled woman doing physical therapy with trainer
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Unfortunately, there is no correct answer to this question. Each person is different, and thus an individual's rate of healing is also different. It may take one person only three days to walk one hundred feet after knee surgery, however, a patient who had surgery on the same day may need five days to reach the same distance. This is due to the variation in pain perception, motivation, and healing rate each of us has.

Rather than setting a date to complete therapy by, set various goals that you would like to achieve during your rehabilitation program. Make this your focus, not time. Reward yourself for achieving these goals, regardless of the time taken to reach them. Your physical therapist can help you set these therapy goals and can help keep you on track.

How to Know When Physical Therapy Should Stop

When going to physical therapy, you should have specific goals in mind to work on. So how do you know when you should stop therapy? Some things that may indicate that it is time to stop physical therapy may include:

  • Your progress has plateaued
  • Your condition is worsening
  • You have achieved all your goals
  • Your pain has gone
  • You have returned to your previous level of activity and functional mobility

When these things have occurred, you need to talk with your physical therapist to discuss discontinuing your rehab program. Your physical therapist can help you transition to your normal home exercise program to prevent future problems with your condition.

If you haven't reached all of your rehab goals, do not worry. You should be able to work independently to keep pushing towards optimal health and mobility. Sometimes, your condition may be such that you may never return to your previous level of activity. When this happens, your physical therapist can give you strategies to modify your activity and to get back to maximum mobility.

Sometimes, unfortunately, physical therapy comes to an end because your insurance company will not continue paying for the skilled services of a physical therapist. When this happens, your physical therapist and the clinic you attend may be able to work with you to set up appropriate payment for the continuance of your physical therapy services. If you choose not to attend, work with your physical therapist to have an appropriate discharge plan so you can continue working on your rehab at home.

Patient's should also advocate for themselves with their insurance company. It is highly encouraged that patients contact their insurance prior to attending therapy to understand their benefits and whether or not they can appeal any limits they may have.

A quick tip on reducing the amount of time spent in therapy is through the performance of a home exercise program. Although the physical therapist works with the patient during therapy sessions, it is important for the patient to take an active role in their therapy program. Daily participation in a home exercise program is a major factor in how quickly one recovers.

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