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What To Wear To Physical Therapy

So you’re about to start physical therapy, but what should you wear? 

You’ll want to focus on something that allows for a good range of motion but also supports any equipment or exercises that your physical therapist may employ during your treatment.

In most cases, you can simply ask your therapist what is appropriate, but here are a few things to consider as you get ready for your first or next appointment!

Before Your First Appointment

The majority of physical therapy involves a good deal of motion, which makes sense, right? As you work to strengthen your body and recover from injuries, you need to actively work the muscles that were injured or left unattended while you waited for your body to heal.

Stretching, moving, and exercising are all common aspects of a physical therapy routine so in many cases you’ll want comfortable, loose fitting clothes that support freedom of movement. That said, in some cases specialized clothing can be a help or a hindrance.

For example, big or loose clothing is great for range of motion and movement, but if your physical therapist needs to see a body part in motion as you exercise, it can obscure the view. Say you’ve injured your knee and are working on recovery — clothes that cover the knee may obscure how your joints are moving or how your muscles are contracting which might be a vital point for your therapist’s assessment.

On the other hand, clothing that’s tight or well fitted (like most exercise wear) can have a restrictive effect on muscles, blood flow, and other aspects that can be a detriment to healthy recovery. For example, leggings are a popular choice for working out, but if they’re so tight that they restrict your range of motion, it can give an inaccurate read on how your body is recovering or adapting to new movements.

A golden rule for physical therapy (or any medical advice): Ask your therapist.

Typically, you’ll be informed of what kind of clothes work best for your particular needs before your evaluation. However, if you’re worried or think that your clothing choice is somehow impacting your experience, simply talk to your physical therapist.

They work with patients all the time and have seen all kinds of injuries, clothing restrictions, and other potential concerns patients might have. Don’t be afraid to ask what works and what doesn’t, or tell them if you feel you need to make a change!

What Shoes Should You Wear

shoes for physical therapy

Shoes are another case by case basis, but for the most part you can get away with fairly comfortable tennis shoes and socks. You’ll want to make sure that whatever shoes you decide to wear are appropriate for moving around and performing exercises in a standard gym environment.

That said, speak with your physical therapist!

In some cases, certain injuries or workout routines can inflame an injury or complicate things if a certain type of shoe is worn. Say you have an injury somewhere in your leg or ankle, a pair of shoes that has too much support or a strange shape could influence your posture and change the effect of some exercises designed to target specific areas of your body.

Generally speaking, you’ll be good with comfortable and well-fitting tennis shoes, but it doesn’t hurt to double check after your first session.

If You Are Going To Your Appointment After Work

Generally speaking, most office or casual wear is not ideal for working out. If you regularly have to wear slacks, a suit, skirts, dresses, or anything else that’s commonly worn around an office or work environment, you’ll want to pack a change of clothes and prepare ahead of time.

Whether you want to preserve your work clothes, or be more comfortable during your therapy sessions, it’s important to remember that clothes can impact your range of motion and comfort level to a great degree.

Even something like jeans or tight fitting shirts can restrict your movements and reduce the effectiveness of your treatment. Most of the time, there will be a bathroom or an appropriately private area to change clothes, so it’s recommended you take this into consideration before your appointments.

Can you move freely in your top and bottoms? Can you squat or bend from side to side or twist? If you have a good range of motion, and your therapist can easily see how your body is moving during treatment, then you should be all set for your physical therapy appointment!

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