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What is Outpatient Physical Therapy? Everything You Need to Know

Outpatient physical therapy is physical therapy for the duration of which a patient does not undergo an extended hospital admission. Outpatient PT can take place at a hospital clinic or private medical facility, such as an elder care home or assisted care community. Outpatient therapy includes a combination of physical, speech, and rehabilitation therapies intended to improve a wide range of conditions. 

Learn everything you need to know about outpatient physical therapy and what you can expect from your first session. Find out what conditions are best treated in outpatient versus inpatient PT. And, gain insight as to the purposes of physical therapy and how it can benefit you or your loved one. 

What is Outpatient Physical Therapy and What Do You Need to Know?

Outpatient physical therapy (PT) serves to address a range of conditions, which do not require patients to stay in a hospital for the duration of the regiment. Patients travel to a clinic in a hospital or private PT facility for appointments, which usually lasts no longer than an hour. The frequency with which you undergo PT sessions varies depending on an individual’s health condition and recommendation from a physician. 

A doctor may recommend daily PT sessions, at first, which can be reduced by your physical therapist as the patient makes progress. On the other hand, session frequency can be increased, as well, if a patient’s progress goes into decline. The factors at play in deciding the frequency with which a patient undergoes PT sessions is dependent

Outpatient Physical Therapy vs Inpatient Physical Therapy

Inpatient physical therapy differs from outpatient, in that it requires patients to be admitted to a facility such as a hospital, nursing home, or rehabilitation center. Inpatient therapy takes place throughout the patient’s stay and is closely monitored by a patient’s acting physicians. The medical reasons for inpatient care becoming necessary are widely varied, as is a patient’s duration of care. 

The ultimate goal of an inpatient facility, like a hospital, is to make the patient well enough to return to their normal life. As such, treatment regimens are generally more vigorous and intensely monitored by medical staff at inpatient physical therapy programs. Likewise, outpatient PT exists to the end of returning the patient to a state of physical wellness, but inpatient PT devotes more manpower and physician resources to each patient. 

Who is the Team of Caregivers at Inpatient Care Facilities?

The lead physician responsible for a patient’s treatment leads to the coordination of care between a team of rehab specialists. The core medical team for inpatient treatment consists of the lead physician, rehabilitation specialists, nurses, and, speech, rehabilitation, and physical therapists. Also, the team can include a combination of counselors, nutritionists, caregivers, social workers, and others.

Outpatient physical therapy involves a patient undergoing sessions for, at most, about an hour per day, if sessions are daily. Inpatient physical therapy involves undergoing at least 3 hours of rehabilitation therapy per day, which includes physical therapy. Patients have 24-hour medical monitoring by resident physicians and staff and are encouraged to take advantage of rehabilitation equipment between sessions.

What Does Inpatient Care Include for Residents?

Many conditions necessitating inpatient care cause chronic pain which gets in the way of recovery. Residents at inpatient facilities can receive supervised pain management when necessary, to minimize a patient’s physical suffering while in treatment. While a patient, residents are provided meals, help with personal or hygienic care, and access to recreational opportunities, like swimming, spa treatments, and group sporting activities.  

Outpatient care involves patients attending sessions with each specialist at different times. Those in outpatient care do not require 24-hour medical supervision, so they reside at their normal place of living, except when attending sessions with their therapists, specialists, or physicians. Unlike inpatient care facilities, outpatient physical therapy requires individuals to follow through with activities and exercises on their own. 

What to Expect from Outpatient Physical Therapy

Before accomplishing the goals of your treatment, they must be set by you and your physical therapist – following your head physicians’ recommendations. During your first physical therapy session, you talk with your therapist to confer on the needs of the patient and the goal of treatment. Patients leave their first session of PT having learned how to measure their state of wellness, some pain management techniques, and basic exercises corresponding to the goals of treatment. 

What Conditions Do Inpatient and Outpatient Physical Therapy Help to Address?

Inpatient care addresses conditions that are severe, chronic, or debilitating – or otherwise require physician supervision. Often, these conditions warrant special and constant care by medical professionals. The most common conditions to warrant inpatient physical therapy include recovery from a stroke, joint replacement, heart attack, or, for COPD or chronic arthritis.

The list of conditions is much longer for patients of outpatient rehab treatment. Outpatient physical therapy can treat a wide range of conditions, many of which do not require emergency supervision or care – but ongoing attention and practice. These conditions can include a multitude of injuries relating to stroke, brain injury, amputation, arthritis, and many others.

Patients receive outpatient physical therapy after sustaining injuries from car accidents, falls, work or sports injuries, and many more. Do you want to learn more about the care options available to you or a loved one? Talk to a care physician today, to set up your free introductory consultation.


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