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How to Determine the Value of Physical Therapy

A photo of a physical therapist working with a patient in the PT360 aquatic therapy pool
Physical therapist and patient in aquatic therapy pool

It is estimated that only 7% of the U.S population have utilized physical therapy services this year – what about the other 93% that haven’t?  Considering that physical therapy is intended for those who are injured, who are post-surgical, and who are looking for preventative medicine, one would expect the utilization rate to be much higher.  So if physical therapy is under-utilized, why?  Could it be that people have a hard time assessing the value of our services?  It is true that the majority of physical therapists under-sell what they can do.  Brett Neilson, PT states “We sell services; not products.  We expect our patients to buy a service unseen or tested, and we often are unable to show the patient the value they are receiving.”  So how do we show a patient the value of their investment? 

What consumers truly value can be difficult for physical therapists to pin down.  Patients may wonder if the services are worth the costs and be unsure of how to determine that.  Therefore, physical therapists must address each aspect of the patient’s needs and desires. Research suggests there are four elements that correspond to the value assessment of physical therapy: social impacts, life changes, emotions, and functional elements. Generally, the more a therapist can incorporate these values into a treatment session, the more their patients will feel satisfied with their investment.  Below are questions or statements that you can ask yourself to determine how much value you are receiving from your physical therapy


Social Impacts

Our difference in abilities has an impact on our perception of ourselves.  It has been found that people who are injured have a low self-transcendence – in other words, a low sense of belonging to something greater. This has a negative impact not only on the injured individual, but also on the community as a low self-transcendence often leads to decreased motivation and overall happiness.  Self-transcendence will vary based on your own personal values.  To determine value, ask yourself: is your physical therapist providing education, interventions, and rehabilitation that result in the expansion of your personal boundaries?  Is physical therapy helping you to become your best, physically?


Life Change

Physical therapy has the power to transform lives.  To maximize healing and injury prevention, be sure to discuss your values with your therapist during the initial evaluation to focus your care on your internal drives.  Physical therapists should work with their patients to develop an individualized plan of care & functional goals, discuss the patient’s hopes, and determine the desired functional outcome at the time of discharge.  Your physical therapist may insight new values through their motivational techniques during your care and in your personal interactions.  When injured, a patient can often lose parts or all of their identity – this includes affiliations within an organization, club, or a specific social group. Therapy should provide you with a drive, an ambition, and the proper tools for reintegration.



Injury will often result in a mixture of emotions, from fear and anxiety to wellness and fulfillment. Throughout the rehabilitation process, your physical therapist should engage in meaningful conversations to ease fear and anxiety.  One of the best ways for physical therapists to reduce fear and anxiety is to provide their patients with the necessary education, tools, and instructions for patients to manage their care independently.  Providing the patient with the necessary tools to be able to facilitate the healing response will give them ownership and control over their rehabilitation process.



Functional elements take on a different role in terms of value. Functional elements include: time saving interventions, organization of exercises, simplification of pathology, information with a prognosis, connections to improve adherence, and most importantly, quality care.  Although there are multiple aspects, it boils down to each session containing informative, efficient, and meaningful interventions to help patients return to pre-injury activities and reintegrate into their social communities.



Questions to reflect on before and while engaging in physical therapy:

  1. Does your therapist provide quality services that will reduce your costs and save you time?  Are the interventions prescribed organized, simplified, and informative?
  2. Is your physical therapist providing education, interventions, and rehabilitation that result in the expansion of your personal boundaries?  Does your physical therapist provide you with the tools to address your emotional needs?
  3. Is physical therapy helping you become your best, physically?
  4. Is physical therapy helping you to reintegrate into your pre-injury activities?