Is equipment really necessary when opening a private practice?

When my husband and I opened our first physical therapy practice in 2009, I thought creating an equipment budget was essential to open up for patients on day one.  I put together a large list of of machines, tables, dumbbells, and so on.  I actually got to be pretty thrifty between used sporting good stores and WalMart specials, that we probably only ended up spending about $20,000 at the most.


Looking back at that time, why did I waste so much money on tools and equipment when my hands and knowledge were the most powerful tools I had?!  Within a couple of years, the upright bike, recumbent bike, weight bench, total gym and smith machine I had initially purchased, was now being sold or given away to whomever would get it out first!  It took up valuable patient space in my gym, and my hands felt to be a better option for treating.  At least I learned this lesson before opening up our second location!


If you read back to one of my earlier blogs,  you should know that one of my missions in our profession is to help educate the communities around me about what physical therapy is and what we can offer to patients for a better quality of life.  After letting go of my larger pieces of equipment, we would occasionally have patients walk into our clinics to scope us out and tell us we “didn’t have much equipment” so what were we going to do with them.  Here was my chance!  Here was the opportunity for my well-trained staff to educate that perspective patient about the higher caliber of care they will receive by not using equipment; by receiving hands-on care from our highly trained clinicians they will achieve faster and better outcomes.


Patient outcomes, surveys, online reviews and word of mouth referrals over the past few years have solidified my assumptions that patients really do enjoy the hands-on approach versus treating in a gym-type environment.


Some key pieces of equipment that I feel is necessary when opening up a new practice.


  • A mat table. Not a hi-lo table; a wood, inexpensive, standard table.  A hi-lo is luxury; don’t spend your money on that initially.
  • Physio Ball.  There is so much that you can do with this; put your skills to use.
  • Dumbbells.  One to five pounds at the most.  I use these more for my shoulder surgery patients to be able to better track progression of strength.
  • A ballet bar.  In our first office I spent thousands on a beautiful set of parallel bars.  They’re great and we still use them, but unnecessary.  Our second clinic, I paid about $100 for a ballet bar.  It works just the same.
  • Bosu Ball.  I love this for balance and stability and we use it with such a huge variety of patient diagnoses.

That’s it.  I’m serious.  Utilize your hands for resistance and manual techniques, your brain for educating your patient and establishing a home program, and that’s all you need.  Good luck!  If you’re new to this realm of private practice, I hope I just saved you a ton of money!

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