What to Expect from Physiotherapy

So you’ve never been to physiotherapy before, what should you expect?

You may have notions of what to expect from a physiotherapy appointment through talking with a friend, or from a quick Google search. You may hear we give stretches; we will give you a massage, we give exercises or we will tape you. The list goes on and on because physiotherapy comes in so many shapes and sizes. What works for one individual may not work for another, and that is why there are numerous approaches. 

Regardless of how each physiotherapist practices, here is a list of overarching principles every physiotherapist should implement. This is not an exhaustive list; however, we feel these are the most important principles your therapist should follow to ensure you as a client feel empowered and ready to conquer anything put your way. 

  1. Education – Isn’t it frustrating when you go to a mechanic and they just rhyme off all these words that make no sense; then you just pay the bill, not knowing what you are paying for? Sometimes it can feel the same way in healthcare. This is why we believe it is important for your physiotherapist to provide you the education necessary to understand your body and your injury. You should not leave your assessment or treatment not understanding why they/you are doing something. It should be explained in a simple way so you can go home and explain it to your partner or a friend. 
  2. Empathy – No, not sympathy, your therapist should have empathy. Sympathizing with you, may cause your therapist to implement treatment strategies that do not get you to the goal you have in mind; however, empathy is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, which enables you to understand why they may feel the way they do. Having a therapist that empathizes with you allows the therapist to provide care that aligns with YOUR goals, and not what they believe your goals to be. Empathy also creates a therapist that is just as invested in your goals as you are; they should want you to succeed.
  3. Active Listener – Doctors often interrupt a patient within 11 seconds of the patient beginning to talk. Interrupting is common within healthcare, and it does not allow individuals to feel like they have been heard or able to explain what is going on. Your physiotherapist should actively listen and allow you to tell your story. YOU are the expert in what is happening to you and so it only makes sense to have you explain exactly what happened and what you are experiencing. 
  4. Specificity – Every person is unique, and your physiotherapy care should reflect this. There is no cookie cutter approach that works for every person. Your physiotherapist should collaborate with you to ensure that what they are implementing is feasible and manageable for you to work into your daily life. It should be specific to YOU. 
  5. Empowerment – We’ve heard it so many times, an individual goes to someone in healthcare that tells them that you should NEVER do a certain activity again. Also, we have heard individuals that feel reliant on someone to “fix” them. You are not broken and you should find a therapist that makes you feel empowered, and able to conquer anything. It may not be immediate, but a physiotherapist should find ways to enable you to take ownership of your health, and get you back to whatever it is you want to do. 
  6. Honesty – The honest truth is that we cannot always help with every injury/ailment that comes our way. Your physiotherapist should tell you the truth about what they know and what they do not know. They should know when to refer to another speciality or another therapist. If they truly care about your wellbeing, they will guide you in the right direction for the best care whether it is with themselves or another individual. 


1. What does a physiotherapist do?

A physiotherapist helps restore movement and function for individuals dealing with injury or disability. They also help with prevention and can reduce the risk of future injury or disability. They take a biopsychosocial approach while involving you in your own care. 

2. When should I see a physiotherapist?

If you believe you have a serious injury then seek immediate medical attention. For most injuries, you can benefit from having an assessment with a physiotherapist.

3. Can physiotherapists provide a diagnosis?

Yes, physiotherapists in Canada are able to provide you with a diagnosis.

Have questions about a particular injury or topic? Fill out our contact form or chat with us using the chat box in the bottom right hand corner of your screen.

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