Why do I need an initial assessment?

Nov 18, 2020

A lot of patients come into the clinic wondering why they have to go through an initial assessment with a physiotherapist when their doctor, or other health care provider, have already determined what the root cause of their pain is or potentially even had diagnostic imaging conducted to confirm a diagnosis. While this seems like a straightforward answer, listed below are 5 reasons why an initial assessment is essential for a physiotherapist to give the right care:

  1. Patient centered care- The idea behind patient centered care is that when physiotherapists give treatments or care for a patient, it is individualized to that patient’s needs. Therefore, through an initial assessment, physiotherapists are better able to understand why a person is coming to physiotherapy, what their goals for recovery are and what care is best for that individual. The most effective care is provided when it is tailored to a patient’s specific presentation and needs.

  2. Even the same condition presents differently- Although two people may have the same condition diagnosed, there is always variation in how this condition influences a person. Everyone is at a different stage in their lives and has had different experiences and therefore experience their condition differently. Thus, through an initial assessment a physiotherapist can better understand how a condition or injury has influenced a person’s life.

  3. Determine a baseline- During an initial assessment a physiotherapist will take you through a number of “tests” or outcome measures to better understand where a patient is on that very first day. This baseline or beginning measurements allow for a physiotherapist to understand the current strength, mobility and overall functioning of a patient’s body or area of concern. Later in the recovery process, physiotherapists can repeat some of these measurements and compare to the beginning ones determined through the initial assessment. This comparison allows for patients and physiotherapists to better understand when significant changes to symptoms or other factors have occurred.

  4. Imaging does not always reflect a patient’s pain experience- A lot of research has been conducted to determine the ability for diagnostic imaging (e.g., x-ray, MRI, ultrasound) to reflect a patient’s presentation or their experiences with pain. Unfortunately, most of the research demonstrates that the correlation between the two is very low, especially in regard to low back pain. Furthermore, the chances of finding asymptomatic spinal “abnormalities” are very common and increase with age. Therefore, as physiotherapists we cannot exclusively rely on a patient’s diagnostic imaging to determine that patient’s experience with pain as they often do not match up. For more information regarding low back imaging and when it is warranted go to this website: https://choosingwiselycanada.org/spine/
  5. Physiotherapy is for anyone, at any stage in life- Teachers, doctors, grocery store workers, salespeople, children, seniors, and even other physiotherapists are welcome and often seek treatment for a number of injuries. Every individual is the expert regarding their own experiences with injury and pain and through assessment, physiotherapists can better understand the factors that influence an individual’s pain experience. Through a detailed history and assessment, physiotherapists are able to determine a likely prognosis and suitable treatment pathway to aid in recovery.

To book in for an initial assessment, call 780-458-8505 or visit the online booking tab above.


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