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How Long Is Physical Therapy?

how long can physical therapy last

Whether you are preparing for your first physical therapy session, or are doing some research into starting physical therapy, you’ve probably got a few questions.

The main one being, “How long does physical therapy last?”

That question can have two different answers, depending on if you’re asking about a single session or a physical therapy program as a whole.

The answer to the latter will vary depending on a number of different factors.

By the end of this guide, you’ll have an accurate picture of…

  • How long your first PT session will last
  • Your timeline for ongoing visits
  • What goes into a typical PT session
  • How long a physical therapy program will take to work

…so you can be prepared for your physical therapy experience.

how long is a physical therapy session


How Long Does Physical Therapy Take?

Starting off with just a single session, there’s a relatively simple answer.

While the time can vary based on a number of factors, you can go off of the benchmark that a typical physical therapy session takes about an hour.

Plan for your first session to run a few minutes over an hour, just because the first visit usually requires covers a bit more information.

The first thing to note about your first session is to be prepared.

It’s a good idea to start setting good habits for yourself from the get-go, and that includes knowing what to wear to physical therapy.

When you go to your physical therapy appointments, try to wear loose-fitting clothing and comfortable shoes or sneakers so your PT can accurately measure your strength and range of motion.

If you are getting your knee worked on or evaluated, it’s a good idea to wear shorts to your PT visit.

Wearing the proper clothing can help prevent any delays during your session and the need to repeat any evals on your second visit.

How Long Is A Physical Therapy Session The First Time?

During your first visit, there are a few routine things you can expect.

To start, your physical therapist will perform an initial evaluation of your ailment or injury by:

  1. Asking questions about how you’re feeling
  2. Asking if you have any pain; and
  3. Evaluating where that pain falls on a scale of 0 to 10.

This evaluation will also include a series of questions about your past and present medical conditions.

It is absolutely vital that you answer with as much accuracy as possible so that he or she can evaluate and treat your condition properly.

Next, your physical therapist will perform a comprehensive evaluation of your:

  • Muscles
  • Joints
  • Nerves
  • Tendons; and
  • Ligaments.

Your testing will also include an examination of your range of motion, strength, and functional ability.

Finally, your physical therapist will use the results of their exam and your doctor’s recommendations to design a treatment plan for rehabilitation.

Based on your…

  • Diagnosis
  • Prognosis
  • Personal goals

…an individual “Plan of Care” will be devised.

Oftentimes, your physical therapist will start your program with you during the first visit.

They will likely send you home with a list of exercises to do until your next visit—a little bit of homework if you will.

Be sure you follow the plan exactly — most of the work and results of physical therapy come from the work you do at home.

Your future appointments will then be scheduled to implement that plan.

Let’s take a look at Leo’s first physical therapy session:

He arrives at the clinic 15 minutes early to fill out paperwork and change into comfortable, athletic clothing.

He is greeted by the receptionist and given a few pages to fill out.

After a couple of minutes, he’s greeted by a physical therapy aide who takes him to do a few warm-up exercises before meeting the PT who will be treating him.

His physical therapist asks him all the usual questions:

  • How long has he experienced shoulder pain?
  • Does he have any idea of when the injury occurred?
  • Can he describe his pain level?

The PT aide who greeted Leo and the physical therapist rally to create a program for him.

They use the remaining 30 minutes of Leo’s sessions to begin his program, starting with a few corrective exercises.

Before Leo heads home, his physical therapist goes over the at-home exercises with him to make sure he knows how to do them on his own.

He’s given a piece of paper with the exercises written on them as a reminder of what to do and in which order.

Before walking out, Leo schedules his second session for the same time next week.

how long can physical therapy last

Timeline For Ongoing Visits

For your ongoing sessions, you can expect about a 30-minute to one-hour commitment.

Frequency can range from once a week to multiple times, depending on the severity of your injury or condition and the goals of your therapy program.

As you make progress in your program, your visits may change in both length and frequency.

What Goes Into A Physical Therapy Session?

As we mentioned above, there is a typical flow to a physical therapy session.

According to the American Physical Therapy Association, PT sessions have three components:

  1. Assessment and examination
  2. Diagnosis
  3. Implementation of a treatment plan

But what does this actually look like for you?

Your PT will go through the following steps in your sessions:

  • Assess how you are progressing
  • Have you do a few warm-up exercises
  • Begin your program of corrective/rehabilitation exercises

Although the long-term goal of your PT program is to get you recovered and pain-free, you should be aware that physical therapy itself won’t always feel good.

There is a chance that you may feel uncomfortable or not used to moving your injured area.

But it is important to stick to your specific routine — after all, it was designed specifically for your recovery.

Be sure to:

  • Do your exercises at home in the number, order, and frequency your physical therapist has noted.
  • Not skip any home exercises
  • Not do any extra exercises

Following the directions exactly as laid out by your physical therapist will help you heal faster and get moving again.

However, if a specific exercise is putting you in a lot of pain, pause and talk it over with your physical therapist.

how long is the average physical therapy session

Assessment Of Progress

During your examination, both during your first appointment and your following ones, you will be evaluated on your:

  • Strength
  • Range of motion
  • Flexibility
  • Posture
  • Mobility
  • Balance
  • Coordination
  • Skin integrity
  • Muscle function

Your progress, or initial ability, will determine your course of treatment and how your program will continue over time.

Once the examination is complete, your physical therapist will:

  1. Evaluate the results
  2. Identify the factors that have contributed to your specific ailment
  3. Design an individualized treatment plan


Your physical therapist or an aide will walk you through a few initial warm-up exercises.

They will vary depending on your ailment.

A few common warm-up exercises may include:

  • Bike
  • Arm bike 
  • Range of motion exercises 
  • Lateral raises 
  • Walking lunges
  • Walking stretches
  • Table slides
  • Theraband exercises

Once your ailment area is warmed up, you and your physical therapist will begin working on your treatment plan.

Begin Treatment Plan and Corrective Exercises

Some treatments may include:

  1. Manual therapy meant to improve the mobility of joints and soft tissues
  2. Strengthening and flexibility exercises
  3. Training for proper daily movements involving your ailment, and for proper sleeping positions if your ailment is affected by certain positions
  4. Use of ice or heat treatments or electrical stimulation to help relieve pain

The length of your treatment plan and the aggressiveness of your exercises will again depend on the severity of your injury.

how long is physical therapy

How Long Does Physical Therapy Take To Work?

The timeline for your physical therapy program depends very much on what your ailment is.

You may need one or two visits, or you may need months of care.

It all hinges on your:

  • Diagnosis
  • The severity of your injury or impairment
  • Your past medical history
  • And more

For example:

If you’ve just had surgery and are coming to physical therapy for post-op recovery, you could be looking at a 6-month PT track.

But, if you have more of a soft tissue injury, your physical therapy timeline could look more like 4-6 weeks.

Let’s look at Marisol’s PT timeline:

Marisol’s neck has been plaguing her for a few months.

Her doctor referred her to a physical therapy clinic and after her first visit, her PT has given her a treatment plan that will span a length of nine weeks.

Her physical therapist has included a list of milestones that she and Marisol will aim to work towards over the next nine weeks.

Whatever your ailment, let us help you get started on your road to recovery.

Contact In Motion O.C. today for a complimentary consultation.

how long is the average physical therapy session

Physical Therapy At In Motion O.C.

Finding the right physical therapist and PT clinic can be daunting.

You want someone who:

  1. Communicates your goals effectively
  2. Understands your symptoms and discomfort; and 
  3. Will work with you to create a program that will leave you pain-free.

Here at In Motion O.C., we treat a number of different:

In many cases, it’s best to have one of our Doctors of Physical Therapy assess your condition and customize an individualized treatment program that is right for you.

Ailments We Treat

At In Motion O.C., we excel in helping our patients overcome and manage their sports-related injuries and physical ailments.

Treatment varies based on each patient’s unique needs, body, and injury — which is why our expert team of doctors of physical therapy develop individualized therapy programs for all of our patients.

We treat an expansive list of injuries, including common ailments such as:

  • Arthritis
  • Bursitis
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Herniated disc
  • Sciatica
  • Scoliosis
  • Tendonitis

On top of these ailments, there are a number of other common body-part specific areas and symptoms we treat, including:

  • Osteoporosis physical therapy
  • Shoulder
  • Elbow
  • Hip
  • Knee
  • Head/Neck
  • Back
  • Hand/Wrist
  • Sacroiliac joint
  • Ankle/Foot

If you are experiencing pain or discomfort in any of these or any other symptom areas, contact us today.

Our goal at In Motion O.C. is to teach people how to be:

  • Healthy
  • Strong; and
  • Conscious

…of their movements for total wellness.

Start your road to recovery with a free consultation with our team of compassionate, knowledgeable licensed physical therapists.

Let us help you get your life back on track.

In Motion O.C.