Every time you begin a new “episode of care” with a healthcare provider, there are 5 important questions you should ask:

(1) “What is wrong with me?”
(2) “How long will it take to get better?”
(3) “What can you do for it?”
(4) “What can I do for it?”
(5) “How much will it cost me?”
These questions are especially important when your first visit is about an acute, unresolved issue. Let’s take a look at each question in a little more detail:

#1: “What is wrong with me?” This question can be difficult to answer because of the nature of pain. It is important to understand where pain is processed (in the brain) and the pathway of nerves which delivers the sensation to the brain. Pain directs the brain back to the source, and it is important to address the source of the problem and not merely the pain or other symptoms (such as swelling). It may be tempting to take a medication like Ibuprofen for temporary relief from pain and swelling, but this approach does not address the cause of the problem. The first order of business in any new episode of care is to get a clear answer about what is causing the problem.

#2: “How long will it take to heal?” It is common for a new episode of pain to resolve itself within approximately 6 weeks. While certain treatments may speed up your body’s healing process, 6 weeks is a common length of time for partial tissue healing if the source of irritation/re-injury is taken away. On the other hand, some problems persist for months or even years. Of course, we must answer the first question above (“What is wrong with me?”) before a prognosis can be made. But the time of recovery in these cases is typically (though not always) directly related to the time the problem has persisted. An example of this is plantar fasciitis, which may flare up and then disappear, only to flare up again, for months. Resolution of symptoms for chronic fasciitis might be 12 weeks, in contrast to a 6-week healing period for an acute flare-up.

#3: “What can you do for it?” As a physical therapist, it is my job to give you the best tools to help your body heal. Examples of these tools are: a) education about your body and its injury; b) in-clinic treatment of your injury; c) education about various approaches to healing and prevention of future injury or re-injury; d) specific exercises you can do at home to help with the physical management of your injury. Whichever healthcare provider you consult, you should be sure that you are also offered at least these two things: 1) expertise in the specific area of your injury; and 2) a clear explanation of the reason(s) for each part of the treatment your provider advises you to receive.

#4: “What can I do for it?” As you may guess from the answer to #3 above, you should expect to learn something new at every visit, as we continue to investigate the source of your symptoms and how to resolve the problem at the source. By combining the information we discover from our investigations with the exercises I will prescribe, you will be equipped to begin bringing your body back into health.

#5: “How much will it cost me?” The current landscape of traditional payment models is changing. Does it feel like when you go to request treatment, your healthcare provider has a blank check? Have you seen an emergency visit bill? Payment should be the least intimidating and least worrisome part of your treatment, and your healthcare provider (or administrative staff) should be able to explain each charge clearly, along with your expected costs.

Are you suffering from an ongoing physical ailment? Schedule now through my online portal. If you would like more information, leave a comment below, or when scheduling an appointment, select “FREE Phone Consultation”! See this site for information on joint health.