If you’re recovering from an injury, surgery, or illness, you may be advised to consider outpatient therapy. Outpatient therapy is a course of treatment to support your recovery and rehabilitation, delivered through a series of visits to a private therapy practice or a clinic.
What is Outpatient Therapy?
Unlike inpatient treatment, with an outpatient therapy program, you will stay in your own home and visit your treatment professionals over a series of weeks or months. Outpatient therapy programs can vary, but will usually include physical therapy and occupational therapy. In some cases, speech therapy might also be recommended. Some outpatient therapy programs also include a course of treatment with a counselor, nutritionist, or other rehabilitation professionals.
Typically, your outpatient therapy program will begin with an overall assessment of your treatment needs. You will then receive a treatment plan which will include a schedule of regular appointments with the rehabilitation professionals who best suit your needs. Your appointments might be once every one to five days, and will usually last between 30 minutes to an hour. You may be scheduled to see more than one therapist. Outpatient therapy treatment will also include exercises and activities that you will be expected to complete at home between appointments.
How Can It Help Your Recovery Process?
Outpatient therapy is a highly effective way to help you recover from your injury, illness, or surgery. Outpatient therapy has multiple benefits for patients:
It helps you heal faster.
In fact, a study by the Angers Department of General Medicine in France found that in certain cases, outpatient therapy could be as successful as more intensive inpatient treatment (although this depends on a number of medical factors.) While outpatient therapy can be time-consuming and may sometimes feel tiring to stick to, it is a highly effective way to help you recover your physical well-being more quickly.
It helps you regain your normal abilities.
The focus of outpatient therapy is to help you regain your normal function. Rehabilitation specialists will design a program which includes services like physical, occupational, or speech therapies that are customized to your unique medical needs, lifestyle, and requirements, to help you get back into the swing of everyday life as quickly as possible.
It helps you understand your condition.
Your treatment providers will be on hand to answer questions about your medical issues and help you understand the reasons behind a given course of treatment. The better you understand your condition, the more likely you are to stick to your rehab program, and the quicker you’ll see the benefits.
It means you can get effective medical treatment but stay in your own home.
For many patients, this is the best part of an outpatient therapy program: you can receive expert treatment and care but still return to your own home. Outpatient therapy can be less disruptive to your day-to-day routine and family life than staying in an inpatient treatment center.
It can prevent you from injuring yourself again.
If you are receiving outpatient therapy for an injury, it can be a great way to make sure you don’t end up in the same situation again. For instance, your therapist can teach you posture techniques or other strategies to make sure your recovery lasts.
Is Outpatient Therapy Right for You?
Outpatient therapy may be a good choice if you are recovering from a minor illness, injury, or medical issue. For more serious medical cases, inpatient therapy is usually recommended. Deciding which option might be best for you should be done through a consultation with your healthcare team. Outpatient therapy might be a good fit for you if:
- You are sufficiently strong, mobile, and physically independent to manage your own care and recovery.
- You feel able to manage your self-care during recovery, such as keeping track of your medications, looking after your wound, getting dressed, and cooking for yourself.
- You feel confident that you can keep up the regime of home-based exercises and activities recommended by your therapists.
- You can handle the logistics of transporting yourself to your therapy and medical appointments without any difficulty.
- You prefer to stay in your own home or have family or work commitments that make inpatient treatment difficult.
Outpatient Therapy for Surgery
Outpatient therapy is highly effective for patients recovering from surgery. Typical treatments might include physical therapy and occupational therapy. In a recent study published in Orthopedic Nursing, researchers found that patients who received outpatient physical therapy soon after surgery recovered more quickly than the control group - in fact, they resumed normal activities up to 20 days faster than other patients.
Outpatient Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis
Outpatient therapy can be extremely beneficial for MS sufferers. A bulletin from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society states that rehabilitation and physical therapy are an “important part of health care delivery for persons with multiple sclerosis.” Outpatient treatment for MS is likely to be long-term, comprising occupational therapy and physical therapy, and will need to be flexible and customized to the unique needs of the individual patient.
Outpatient Therapy for Brain Injuries and Strokes
While most patients who suffer a stroke or other severe brain injury are likely to need short-term inpatient rehab, outpatient therapy might be an option for stroke patients who have been very mildly affected. Treatment would typically involve between one to three hours of therapy (such as physical, occupational, or speech therapy) several times per week.