How to Choose the Right Physio for You

In a recent seminar with medical students, they asked me how to find “good” physios for their patients.  This is an important question not just for future GP’s but for everyone looking to find that “perfect fit” for their rehabilitation needs.

Here are a few suggestions:

Step 1: Ask your doctor

If your GP has been practicing in the area for a while, he/she will have had experience with the different physio clinics and physios in the area.  Even with your GP’s recommendation, ask why this particular clinic or physio comes highly recommended. 

Step 2. Ask your friends/co-workers/neighbors/personal trainer/dog walker....

You will want to attend a clinic that is conveniently located either close to work or home.  There are many reasons for this:

1. You will be more likely to attend regularly and get the most out of your treatment sessions if you don’t have to drive an hour out of your way.

2. A local physio will be able to direct you to local resources whether it’s a program at your local pool or a suitable beginner’s running route in your neighbourhood or another experienced professional such as a personal trainer or orthotist.

Your neighbors or co-workers may have already tried a clinic “just down the street” and could give you a recommendation but again, ask why they liked their experience.

Step 3: Association Website

If you still haven’t found what you are looking for, check out the provincial association’s website.  In BC, that’s the Physiotherapy Association of BC (PABC) and their website is www.bcphysio.org They have a “Find a physio” section where you can look for physios by location, specialization or even what language(s) they speak. 

Step 4 : Do your research

Once you’ve narrowed down your search, check out the clinics’ websites.  This is an easy and quick way to find out about their rates and hours.  You can also learn about the physios’ backgrounds and credentials.  They may have more detailed information on their website about what you can expect during your visit or how long you can expect to spend with your physio.  This is actually an important but overlooked piece of information.  When you look at rates, you may find that different clinics charge different rates for their appointments.  Why is this?  Well, maybe it’s because of the varying levels of experience and credentials of the physios but it could also be that the physios at the clinic with the higher fees will spend more one on one time with you during your visit.  If this is important to you, you won’t mind paying a little extra. Like with everything “you get what you pay for”. 

Step 5: Do more research

If you don’t get all your answers from the website, call the clinic.  The receptionists will be able to answer your questions.  If you have a clinical question and you are wondering whether physiotherapy treatment would help, you can, most of the time, contact the physio directly via email.  Please remember, physios, just like doctors, are not going to diagnose you or give you exercises over the phone or email.  They need to assess you and prescribe the right treatment and exercises that are specific to your particular issue.  They cannot do this without assessing you in person but if you just want confirmation that physiotherapy is the appropriate treatment for your condition prior to booking, email is a good way to make contact.

Some other things to consider:

Treatment approach:

Two physiotherapists could have similar credentials and yet have different treatment approaches.  Some therapists will focus on manual therapy and some more on active rehabilitation.  At some clinics you may spend up to an hour doing exercises in addition to the one on one time with the physio while at others you will be given the exercises to perform on your own time.  It isn’t that one is wrong and one is right but it has to be right for you.  If you can’t spend a few hours at the clinic every time you go but you know that you will take the time during your day to do your exercises then you may be happy to just be instructed in what you need to do on your own.  It is important that the physiotherapist discusses their approach with you at your first session so that you understand what to expect and you can ask about options on how you and your physiotherapist can best work together.

Personality/Background:

We are all different and your 20 year old nephew may love his physio but that physio’s personality or approach may not be the right one for you.  Again, looking at the bios on the website may help you with this.  You may find that you have something in common with your physio (e.g. you are both runners or cyclists) that will help him/her understand your physical goals.  Or knowing that this person has worked with the elderly will give you more confidence that he/she will be able to help your mom with her arthritic knee.

Clinic Space:

Some clinics are set up with an open concept.  There are treatment beds in a row and a big gym space with little privacy.  This set up works very well for some, especially in athletic therapy.  However, if you are coming in because you have stiffness in your arm after a mastectomy, you will more likely prefer a space that’s more private so you can discuss your medical history.  A clinic that has private, separate cubicles may be more suitable in that case. 

Choosing the right practitioner is a very personal process.  Hope these few points will be able to help guide you in the right direction.