Physical therapy is an important aspect of the healing process, whether you are experiencing pain and discomfort as the result of an injury or a lifelong disability. Physical therapists are specially trained to work with injuries, and many specialize in a particular area of the body. This type of focused therapy is most powerful in conjunction with specialized physical therapy facilities designed to meet patient needs and every type of physical rehab. Inpatient rehab is by far one of the most effective forms of physical therapy, as it provides constant access to medical professionals, but outpatient care has its own benefits. This guide will compare and contrast inpatient rehab vs. outpatient physical therapy to give you the information you need to make an informed healthcare decision.
Inpatient Rehab Pros
Physical therapy is an intensive process that can have major effects on your health for the rest of your life. Many people choose to invest time in attending an inpatient rehab center, which allows them to focus solely on their physical therapy. Inpatient rehab is a particularly powerful treatment option for people who require intensive recovery. If you have been in an accident that requires you to relearn how to walk or perform other basic functions, inpatient rehab may be the best option for you. Most inpatient rehab facilities make comfort a top priority and offer plenty of amenities to their patients. Your facility may have an indoor pool for rehabilitation or even offer spa services. While such amenities are not always strictly necessary for recovery, they are certainly conducive to a relaxing and healing environment.
Outpatient Physical Therapy Pros
Outpatient therapy is a great way to benefit from physical therapy without committing to inpatient rehab care. Outpatient physical therapy centers are staffed with the same type of highly trained staff as inpatient rehab centers, but patients only attend during regular office hours. If you live close to your outpatient therapy center, outpatient care may be a convenient option for you. Another major benefit of outpatient therapy is the ability to work on your exercises further in the comfort of your own home. Outpatient physical therapy can therefore give you greater control over your own progress. Depending on how much you do on your own, you can progress as quickly as you want. There is also often less pressure on you to meet timing goals in terms of your progress.
Inpatient Rehab Cons
Inpatient rehab centers are not without drawbacks. An inpatient rehab stay is a lengthy commitment that not everyone can make. Inpatient rehab may be the most practical option if you do not have any outpatient physical therapy centers near your home, since you are likely to save money by staying at the inpatient rehab center as opposed to commuting over a long distance, but while inpatient rehab centers produce impressive results and can help you achieve your physical therapy goals more quickly than outpatient methods, many people are unable to be away from work or family members for an extended period of time. Another drawback of inpatient rehab centers is that their rules and regulations may be stricter since they are providing a temporary living facility in addition to rehabilitation programs. You should inquire about the regulations of any center before attending to make sure that their rules are acceptable to you.
Outpatient Rehab Cons
Because the time you get to spend with your physical therapist is limited, outpatient physical therapy does not usually produce results as quickly as an inpatient rehab facility. If your physical therapy needs are not particularly intensive and you can afford to get better over a longer period of time, outpatient physical therapy may be a reasonable option for you. On the other hand, you will miss out on the various amenities that come with living in an inpatient rehab facility. Outpatient facilities tend to be very utilitarian and only feature the basics needed to meet patient care. While some outpatient physical therapy facilities are modern and comfortable, others can feel very businesslike and not very relaxing. Another potential con is that if you exercise frequently at home you won’t have the motivation of a physical therapist’s presence to spur you on and encourage you to push past your limits as you would in an inpatient rehab facility.
While inpatient and outpatient care each present a particular set of pros and cons, another important consideration should is the staff of any specific facility you are considering. It won’t matter if the general model of an outpatient facility would suit you best if you can’t connect with the staff in your local center. Likewise, the most well-planned inpatient center won’t do you any good if they don’t have experts in your specific area of physical therapy. Research the centers in your area and take a close look at their weaknesses and strengths. It’s very important that you’re able to identify the best physical therapist. It can be the difference between a full recovery or years of chronic pain. You should work with a rehab center that has the facilities and resources to meet your personal care needs, even if that means traveling a greater distance. This is especially true when it comes to inpatient rehab centers.
When it comes to choosing the best physical therapy facility, the difference between inpatient and outpatient therapy depends largely on personal preference. Some people need the constant encouragement and motivation of a physical therapist to make any progress at all, while others are self-starters who easily make progress on their own. If you find that you progress more in your physical therapy goals when you have the freedom to move at your own pace and take your exercises home with you, outpatient therapy is probably the best option. On the other hand, if the idea of being in an environment where you can focus solely on your physical therapy and receive regular input from others is appealing to you, inpatient rehab may be the best option. Whichever option you choose, there are plenty of great facilities staffed with caring professionals who can help you reach your physical therapy goals.
Now that you understand the differences between inpatient vs. outpatient rehab, have a look at our list of the 9 best physical rehabilitation centers in the US.