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The Four Phases of Physical Therapy You Need for Lasting Results

Physical therapy is defined in many different ways by a variety of people. This makes sense since PTs work in various settings and have access to many unique continuing education experiences. However, there is one thing we all have in common. We need to work with our clients through various phases to restore their bodies function and achieve their goals.

The thing is, many PTs are constrained by a system that believes once the pain is gone, the problem is fixed. This is precisely why many people suffer from a return of their symptoms upon completion of their PT program. You can achieve transformative and long-lasting results when you complete all the necessary physical therapy phases.

The Four Phases of Physical Therapy

1. Assessment and Diagnosis

This phase is truly where physical therapists shine. We are well-equipped and educated on how to assess your musculoskeletal system. We utilize a variety of movement screens, special tests, and measures to assess your mobility, strength, function, and overall joint and tissue health. We can provide you with a physical therapy diagnosis that explains the source and the cause of your symptoms. As Doctors of Physical Therapy, we are aware of red flags or conditions beyond our scope of practice and will refer you to the right specialist if needed.

2. Manual Treatment of the Pain Generator

This second phase is what our clients typically crave. We help you feel better by using our hands and various tools to get your soft tissues and joints moving and feeling better. When this treatment is directed at the true source of your pain (which isn't always right where you hurt), it catapults your body toward recovery. It is the boost your body needs to steer you down the right path to feeling good. Our "secret sauce" keeps our clients coming back and wanting more.

3. Therapeutic Exercise to Maintain Optimal Motion

The third phase of physical therapy is exercise. This phase is sometimes started at the same time as phase two. It is woven throughout your PT experience and modified as your body changes. You need the right exercises to maintain any changes we made with our manual therapy. The exercises you do between sessions are often THE thing that makes the most change.

Many people think of exercise when they think of physical therapy. This is a very good thing as it is true, we are the experts of exercise. We have literally thousands of various exercises in our minds, with dozens of modifications for each.

Our exercises are not just a protocol for every condition but a customized plan for every individual. We differ from personal trainers and strength coaches because our exercises are prescriptive. Anything we give you is specific and is meant to restore mobility and function of your joint(s), flexibility, and strength of your muscles or to improve the overall balance and control of your entire body.

4. Progressive Strength & Load to Create Resilience

Phase four is the one that is most often left out in standard PT practices. By this time, many clients are no longer in pain. They feel pretty good and are often back to doing the things they enjoy. However, this final phase is critical for long-term relief. Your body needs to be continuously challenged to make gains. Providing progressive strength exercises with increased load over time builds muscle and creates the resiliency you need to ensure your symptoms do not return.

At Juniper Physical Therapy & Fitness, this phase is initiated by our physical therapists but is often completed by our personal trainers. Personal Trainers specialize in progressive strength exercises and know how to add the right kind of load to keep your body challenged. When PTs and personal trainers work together, we can ensure our clients get the customized care they need.


When a client goes through all four of these phases, they are our greatest fans. They realize the importance of each and never regret spending the time and money to feel confident in their body.


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