There is no singular answer to how long physical therapy takes. It varies from individual to individual based on the severity of your injuries, your medical history, and how fast you progress through your program.
However, understanding what goes into physical therapy and the estimates of how fast different types of tissue heal will give you a better idea of what to expect and motivate you to continue working through injury. Physical therapy shouldn’t be painful, but it requires persistence and hard work.
This blog discusses what you can expect if you need to go to physical therapy. At Denver Integrated Spine Center, we make sure you understand all of the steps to your physical therapy program and tailor our approach to your specific needs. Whether you have an injury that needs rehab or chronic back pain that requires spinal decompression, our team of licensed chiropractors and physical therapists can help you make a full recovery.
Continue reading to learn what to expect when you begin a physical therapy program and how you can prepare yourself for a speedy recovery.
How Long Does Therapy Typically Last?
The answer to how long physical therapy takes depends on many factors, including the injury type and its severity. However, the introductory session typically takes an hour, but you should plan for it to go a few minutes over an hour to discuss the outlook and prepare for future treatment.
You might also have questions about what to wear to your physical therapy session. For your therapy session, you should try to wear loose-fitting clothing and comfortable shoes. You should wear these items so your therapist can adequately assess your range of motion (ROM) and strength.
If you are in physical therapy for your knee or knees, you should try to wear shorts. Pants can slightly hinder your ROM and make effective physical therapy more difficult.
Average Healing Times for Different Types of Tissue
The length of healing time depends on the various affected tissues and body parts. The average healing times for various tissues are as follows:
- Muscle: 2-4 weeks
- Tendon: 4-6 weeks
- Bone: 6-8 weeks
- Ligaments: 10-12 weeks
- Cartilage: up to 12 weeks
Muscles heal faster than other tissues because they have a rich blood supply that consistently provides nutrients to the affected muscles. Tendons and ligaments have a more limited supply of blood, which lengthens their healing process. Cartilage has no blood supply, prolonging the healing process even further.
The reason why bone takes as long to heal as it does is that it requires load-bearing. Broken bones can’t bear any weight. If you try to bear weight on a broken bone, you can cause severe tissue damage. However, keeping a bone immobilized for too long can result in muscle atrophy and ensuing weakness.
How Long Is a Physical Therapy Session the First Time?
To gauge how long your first physical therapy session will take, you should know what to expect before you go. Your specialized doctors in physical therapy will ask you the following questions upon your arrival:
- How are you feeling?
- Ask about your pain levels
- Evaluate your pain levels on a scale of one to ten
The more accurately you answer these questions, the more accurately your physical therapist can evaluate your condition. Aside from assessing your strength and range of motion, your physical therapist will also evaluate your functional strength.
After performing these evaluations, your physical therapist will examine your doctor’s recommendations to determine a comprehensive treatment plan tailored to your needs.
Timeline for Ongoing Visits
For ongoing sessions, you should expect to have a 30-minute to an hour session depending on where you are in your treatment program and the severity of your injuries. Your session frequency can range anywhere from once a week to three times per week. As you progress through your program, your frequency will likely diminish.
What Goes Into a Physical Therapy Session?
The American Physical Therapy Association defines three distinct categories for therapy sessions.
- Assessment and evaluation
- Implementation of treatment program
The typical therapy session starts with your physical therapist assessing your progress. Then they evaluate you using warm-up exercises. You then complete a thirty-minute to forty-five-minute workout using your rehabilitation exercises.
Though the ultimate goal of physical therapy is to get you feeling one hundred percent again, treatment requires hard work and persistence. You will most likely feel at least some discomfort throughout your program. The important distinction to make is understanding the difference between discomfort and pain.
Physical therapy should reduce your overall pain throughout the program. You may experience soreness, but you shouldn’t feel like your condition is worsening. If at any point throughout the program you think your condition is deteriorating, you should tell your physical therapist.
Depending on the nature of your injury or condition, your therapist will assess the following areas of your functioning:
- Range of motion
- Skin integrity
- Muscle function
Your initial state and progress will determine how quickly you complete each portion of your program.
After the assessment portion of your physical therapy session, your physical therapist will put you through a warm up portion of your therapy. The goal of warming up is to get blood to all of your joints and muscles and warm up your internal temperature to reduce the risk of injury and improve your range of motion. Some common warm-up exercises include:
- Arm biking
- Range of motion exercises
- Lateral raises
- Walking lunges
- Walking stretches (dynamic stretching)
- Table slides
- Theraband exercises
After you warm up, you can focus on the affected area more intently, performing corrective exercises and any other necessary treatment to improve your condition.
Begin Treatment and Corrective Exercises
Your treatment and corrective exercises vary depending on your condition and the severity of your injury.
Some common examples of treatments for muscular or ligament injuries include:
- Manual therapy to improve joint mobility
- Stabilization, functional, and strengthening exercises for the focus area
- Flexibility exercises
- Icing, heating, electrostimulation therapy
The duration of your treatment and its intensity depends on the severity of your injury and the progress you make throughout your program.
What to Do If You’re Feeling Impatient About Your Therapy Progress
If you’re wondering, “how long does physical therapy take to work,” and you don’t feel like you’re progressing fast enough, it may be for a multitude of reasons. Before switching therapists, you should analyze your current therapy program. Are you going as often as you should? Are you working too hard or trying to progress too quickly?
It’s important to remember that everyone’s healing process is different. However, you don’t want to continue using the same healing methods when they aren’t working. Your therapist should adapt your program as needed according to how you respond. To evaluate your progress, be open with your therapist. They should return the candor. If you feel like they don’t have a clear plan for you at all times, it might be time to look for another physical therapist.
Conclusion- How Long Does Physical Therapy Take?
Physical therapy durations vary depending on the severity of your injury and how quickly your body responds to treatment. Your past medical history might also play a role in the length of your recovery.
Whatever your injury, your physical therapist should develop a tailored approach to your therapy depending on your doctor’s recommendations, medical history, and the severity of your injury. Healing from any injury takes time, but you should always feel like your physical therapist is doing their best to help you facilitate recovery. Effective physical therapists are empathetic to your recovery, and they care about getting you back to the life you want to live.
At Denver Integrated Spine Center, our experienced chiropractors and physical therapists can respond to your specific needs. Contact us today to learn more about our services and how we can restore you back to full health