For one reason or another, you’ve been told it’s time to graduate from physical therapy and continue your exercises independently. This can be both exciting and a little bit intimidating. What happens if you have questions? What if you need to come back? What does it even mean to be discharged? We answer these questions and more in this blog that will help you navigate musculoskeletal care after being discharged from in-person physical therapy.
Talk to your PT about discharge.
With any physical therapy plan of care, your PT should discuss your goals starting at your initial evaluation. Your goals serve to measure your progress and ensure your plan of care is effective at getting you back to the things you love with comfort and confidence. This also sets expectations for discharge and when to continue your program on your own. Have an open conversation with your therapist to gain a better understanding of their anticipated discharge timeline and any milestones they’d like you to hit before they formally discharge you to a fitness and wellness plan.
Create an ongoing fitness and wellness plan for your lifestyle.
In order to maintain the progress you’ve made in physical therapy, you need to keep up with your exercises and an active lifestyle in general. You’ve worked hard to get to this point! Keep the momentum going by working with your PT to create a fitness and wellness plan that you can continue with consistency. Your PT should provide you with the most updated versions of your exercises and teach you how to safely progress them on your own over time. If you’re unsure of the best workout schedule, ask your PT to outline one for you. They’d be happy to discuss with you the best way to split up your resistance exercises, cardiovascular training, and active rest days to help you stay organized.
Keep the lines of communication open.
Just because you’ve been discharged does not mean you can’t reach out to your PT with questions or concerns. Forgot how to do an exercise? Hit a plateau and not sure how to progress on your own? Want to try a new exercise but need guidance? Get in touch with your PT for helpful answers to your questions. They may even suggest you come back in to touch base on your progress and review any new concerns. They’ll also be able to identify and direct you to the appropriate resource if you need help with something outside of their scope.
Check back with your PT like you would with your primary care physician.
Most people visit their primary care physician yearly for an annual physical. This is an excellent way to maintain your health and prevent issues before they arise. Did you know physical therapists are also primary care providers when it comes to the musculoskeletal system? It’s true! Physical therapists are movement experts with doctorate-level degrees and are highly skilled at assessing musculoskeletal (think all things muscles and bones) conditions while keeping the whole person in mind. Patients can access physical therapists directly without the need for a physician referral in all 50 US states, though specific regulations around direct access vary. Checking in regularly with a physical therapist for musculoskeletal concerns can save you time and money – and they can help prevent the development of chronic conditions, future injury, and even the need for some surgeries. You only have one body throughout your entire life, so be proactive! A physical therapist is a great resource to keep you active, comfortable, and confident in the way you move.
Stay on track with digital resources.
With advances in technology come new digital healthcare solutions – including physical therapy. Transitioning from in-patient sessions to a fitness and wellness plan is a great option to keep you motivated and consistent after discharge. However, it’s important to choose wisely as not all digital solutions are created equal. Make sure you select a platform that gives you access to an actual licensed physical therapist who will evaluate you and create a personalized program that meets your unique needs. This way, you can be sure your entire medical history – including your in-person physical therapy journey – is taken into consideration and built upon for your continued success. Another helpful tool to look for is the use of video-based exercise programs for you to follow that are monitored and updated as you progress. Additionally, you want to be able to easily reach your virtual PT for quick answers and guidance.
Not sure where to start? Download the OneStep app today to be connected with one of our licensed physical therapists who will create a customized maintenance program for you!
Bornhöft L, Larsson ME, Nordeman L, Eggertsen R, Thorn J. Health effects of direct triaging to physiotherapists in primary care for patients with musculoskeletal disorders: a pragmatic randomized controlled trial. Ther Adv Musculoskelet Dis. 2019;11:1759720X19827504.