What Should You Expect from a First Physical Therapy Visit?


I want to talk about what you should expect from your first physical therapy visit. Your first visit at our physical therapy clinic can provide us with a comprehensive look at the whole you. We’re going to watch you move. We’re going to incorporate your posture, how you function, and make sure that we can get to the root cause of what brought you in and get you back to all the things that you want to do.

Dressing for Your First Physical Therapy Visit

When you’re preparing for your first visit, please make sure that you dress in loose-fitting clothing. We want to make sure you can expose the body part that we need to look at more closely and have it not impede any motion. That way, we can see exactly where we’re starting.

How Your Physical Therapy Visit Starts

Be ready to offer an extensive medical history. We know that you filled out paperwork before you came in, but as you start to tell us your story, we may have more questions, so please work with us on that.

We also want to make sure that you as the patient are very involved in your care. Therefore, we’re going to ask you questions like these:

  • What things aggravate your pain, make it worse?
  • What things make it better?
  • What are your goals?

You might have different goals than the next patient who walks in after you. We treat everything from athletes to geriatric patients. Some people need to get back to sport, and some people just want to be able to lift their child or grandchild. So we want to know what matters to you so we can make sure that we customize your program appropriately

The Testing Phase of Physical Therapy

Then we’re going to move into the testing phase. This is where we might palpate different joints, soft tissues and muscles. We’re going to watch your range of motion, take some measurements. We’re also going to strength test the areas involved and maybe the areas surrounding the joint or painful area as well.

We want to make sure that we watch you move depending on what we’re looking at. That could include reaching overhead. That could mean going from sitting to standing or squatting, even just walking or jogging. We might take some videos if we need to slow down motion to take a more in-depth look.

“If it’s reproducible, it’s reducible.”

The weird part about physical therapy on that first visit is we’re going to try to reproduce your pain. I want to be able to see what body structures are involved, so I can get to that root cause. So that first visit, we might elicit some discomfort as we’re having you squat if you’re coming in for knee pain. But as the saying goes, “If it’s reproducible, it’s reducible.” That really helps us make your pain better and get you back to the things that you want to do.

Creating your Plan of Care

Once we’ve collected all the information that we need for your testing, we’re going to make a customized plan of care. In our clinics, that definitely involves one-on-one physical therapy with your physical therapist. There’s going to be a hands-on component, which could include soft tissue massage, joint mobilizations, and even just guiding your body into the positions that we need it to be in. That might include positions your body hasn’t been in a long time.

We’re going to work on giving you stretches and strengthening exercises that you’ll do in our  clinic with us where we can watch your form and give you appropriate cues, and then we’re going to make sure that you have some things to work on at home.

You’re only coming in for physical therapy perhaps a couple times a week. The biggest change that you’re going to make is the commitment to the time you put in at home.

Helping You Manage Your Pain

While you’re in our clinic, if you are struggling and suffering from pain, we have modalities, which are machines that can help control your pain. Those things include electrical stimulation and ultrasound.

We’re also one of the few clinics in the area that has a class four laser that can help with pain and inflammation. A lot of professional sports teams have that laser and use it to get their athletes back on the field as fast as possible.

How Long Should You Expect Your First Visit to Be?

That first visit does take a while. It’s usually about 45 minutes to an hour to make sure that we can do that full comprehensive examination. We’re looking at the whole you, making sure that this is all about you and getting you back to the things that you want to do. We also definitely aim to get some treatment done that first day. We want to get you back on track as fast as possible.

If you’d like to set up a complimentary consultation or schedule your evaluation, please call our front desk. Call us at (925) 284-3840. I look forward to hearing from you soon and getting you back to your favorite activities.


Lauren Masi is a Doctor of Physical Therapy, board-certified clinical specialist and certified athletic trainer. She earned her bachelor’s degree in physiological science from UCLA, a master’s degree in physical therapy from CSU Northridge, and a doctorate from the University of St. Augustine. As owner of Lafayette Physical Therapy and Bay Area Physical Therapy, she has assembled a skilled team to provide highly personalized and effective care. Lauren’s extensive career encompasses expertise in various physical therapy techniques, including Mulligan and Paris methods, myofascial release, and spinal mobilization. Lauren enjoys horseback riding and family time when not treating patients.

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