My mom asked me “How long do physical therapy sessions take?” not because she was so eager to go, but rather because she wanted to get it over with.
The average physical therapy session at my clinic, Total Therapy Solutions, will last between 30-minutes and 60-minutes.
The quickest physical therapy session is usually 15-minutes in duration while the longest physical therapy sessions may last 90-minutes.
A functional capacity evaluation is a comprehensive physical therapy evaluation that may last 4 hours in duration.
Facebook Group Poll:
I asked my Facebook group how long their physical therapy appointments lasted. This poll had 60 respondents. Link
Q: How long do physical therapy sessions take?
It depends on the type of physical therapy session and the therapist performing the physical therapy session. There are 3 different types of physical therapy sessions.
- The initial evaluation.
- A follow up physical therapy treatment.
- A progress report or discharge treatment.
Some therapists prefer to reserve more time for complex physical therapy cases while other therapists specialize in low complexity conditions that only require a couple minutes to assess.
Physical Therapy Initial Evaluation?
The initial evaluation typically takes the longest amount of time. Most private practice physical therapy clinics will reserve a 60-minute physical therapy appointment for initial evaluations.
The initial evaluation CPT Code 97161 is technically an untimed code, but it is commonly expected to take 20-minutes for a minimal complexity initial evaluation.
Initial Evaluation Only
Some clinics perform an initial evaluation only visit on the first day of physical therapy.
At my clinic, Total Therapy Solutions, I will usually reserve a 30-minute physical therapy appointment for a standard orthopedic new patient physical therapy evaluation, but for more complex physical therapy evaluations we will reserve a 60-minute appointment.
Physical Therapy Evaluation and Treatment
Medicare benefit policy manual clearly indicates a therapist may choose to provide treatment on the same day as the initial evaluation. Many private practices will initiate treatment on the same day as the physical therapy evaluation.
A common first day of physical therapy will last 60-minutes and include the following:
- CPT Code 97161 Physical Therapy Initial Evaluation
- CPT Code 97530 Therapeutic Activity
- CPT Code 97140 Manual Therapy
- CPT Code 97110 Therapeutic Exercise
Single Unit 15-Minute Follow-Up Physical Therapy Appointments
Physical therapy services are typically sold in 15-minute units of time. These units of time are billed using CPT codes.
While the first physical therapy treatment may take 60-minutes, a standard follow-up treatment might be as quick as 15-minutes.
If a patient is performing all of his exercises at home or independently, then that patient might only require a single unit, 15-minute physical therapy treatment to learn a new skill, improve a deficient function, or ask questions related to a home exercise program.
More Complex Cases May Require Longer Physical Therapy Follow Up Appointment Sessions
Some patients may receive treatment for multiple conditions or are more medically complex and therefore require greater levels of assistance and time.
Patients with spinal cord injuries, neurologic diagnosis, or other neurodegenerative conditions may require 90 to 120-minute physical therapy appointments.
The same is true for various forms of vocational rehabilitation.
How Long Do Progress Reports and Discharge Appointments Take?
Progress reports and discharge summaries are required throughout a physical therapy plan of care. On days in which these reports are required, additional time is needed to complete testing and updates to the medical record.
Often, 45 to 60 minutes is required for these physical therapy appointments.
- Physical therapy evaluations, progress reports, and discharge summaries require longer-duration physical therapy appointments.
- Physical therapy follow-up treatments for highly complex cases require 60-minutes of more.
- Physical therapy follow-up treatments for simple orthopedic conditions may be as short as 15-minute sessions.
“I had 2 therapists. the first had to leave to do another job since the hospital was short-staffed because of covid – he worked for the hospital. he did 45-minute sessions and was with me the whole time. I did warm-ups and cool-downs on my own time. I liked that. the second therapist did 90-minute sessions but only spent about 20 minutes with me – the rest of the time she had one of her assistants work with me. I liked the shorter sessions better.” Facebook Group Member
“The hands-on portion of my PT lasted between 15 to 30 minutes and included assessment, stretching, massage, and any instruction for new or modified exercises. . The remaining 60-90 minutes was spent doing exercises on my own but were supervised by the PT, the PT assistant and/or the Aide. While I did the exercises independently, I was always supervised and corrected if I was doing anything incorrectly. Any machines I needed were always set up for me. I was very well cared for. I always iced at home afterward as I was only a 5-minute drive from home and felt more comfortable being home for that. Plus my hubby always brought me a nice cup of hot tea to enjoy and keep me from shivering. I truly do not enjoy icing!” Facebook Group Member
“I had PT first in the hope of being able to avoid surgery. A year later the knee that gave me the most trouble gave up all in one day and I knew it was time. Several months later I went ahead and had the second one done since I had had a superb result from the first. All three times I went to PT my sessions were an hour. Sometimes the squid was for the last ten minutes of the hour, and sometimes it was after the hour was up. I like that very much.” Facebook Group Member
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