10 min read

How to Write a SOAP Note for Physical Therapists

Healthcare professionals have to manage a lot of tasks, but one thing that remains constant is documentation. The SOAP note is a cornerstone among the various methods used for clinical documentation. It offers a structured format for recording patient encounters. SOAP notes are a universal language in healthcare, enabling practitioners to capture and communicate patient information systematically.

This guide aims to demystify the process of writing a SOAP note, offering insights into each component, tips for adequate documentation, and practical examples to enhance your proficiency. From understanding the significance of each section to learning how to weave together a coherent narrative of a patient's journey, this resource aims to equip you with the tools necessary to create meticulous and informative SOAP notes.

 Understanding SOAP Note Format

 S: Subjective

O: Objective
A: Assessment
P: Plan

1. Subjective:

This section captures the patient's subjective complaints, feelings, and symptoms. It's primarily based on what the patient reports, including their descriptions of pain, discomfort, limitations, and any relevant information they provide about their condition. This may include details about:

  • Pain intensity (on a scale from 0 to 10)
  • Description of pain (sharp, dull, throbbing)
  • Activities that exacerbate or alleviate symptoms
  • Other subjective experiences related to their condition

Physical therapists gather this information through conversation and questioning to understand the patient's perspective and how their condition affects their daily life.

2. Objective:

The objective section contains measurable and observable data collected during the physical therapy session. It includes the therapist's clinical observations, assessments, and diagnostic findings. Objective information typically comprises:

  • Vital signs (if relevant)
  • Range of motion measurements
  • Strength assessments
  • Gait analysis
  • Palpation findings
  • Functional tests

These observations and measurements provide concrete data about the patient's physical condition, allowing for a more comprehensive evaluation.

3. Assessment:

In this part, the physical therapist interprets and analyzes the subjective and objective information to form a clinical impression or assessment. The assessment involves the therapist's professional judgment regarding the patient's condition. It includes:

  • Diagnosis (if within the scope of practice)
  • Evaluation of progress or lack thereof
  • Identification of potential issues or complications
  • Prognosis regarding the patient's recovery or future course

The assessment section synthesizes the subjective and objective information to conclude the patient's status and progress.

4. Plan:

The plan section outlines the proposed course of action based on the assessment. It includes the physical therapist's recommendations, interventions, treatment strategies, and goals for future sessions. The plan could encompass:

  • Specific exercises or therapeutic activities
  • Modalities or techniques to be used (e.g., heat therapy, manual therapy)
  • Frequency and duration of therapy sessions
  • Patient education and home exercises

The plan aims to guide the ongoing treatment and rehabilitation process, detailing the steps to address the patient's needs and work toward their goals.

Reduce costs and improve your reimbursement rate with a modern, all-in-one clinic management software.

Get a Demo
Tips for Effective SOAP Note Writing
Be Specific and Concise:
  • Transparent Language: Use precise, understandable language that avoids ambiguity or confusion. Be specific in describing symptoms, observations, and interventions.
  • Avoid Jargon: While using professional terminology is essential, ensure it's understandable to other healthcare providers and patients.
Organize Information:
  • Logical Sequence: Follow the SOAP format (Subjective, Objective, Assessment, Plan) in a clear and organized manner.
  • Chronological Order: Present information in the order it occurred during the session, ensuring a coherent flow of details.
Use Standardized Terminology:
  • Consistent Language: Utilize commonly accepted medical terms and abbreviations. This ensures clarity and consistency across healthcare settings.
  • Avoid Ambiguity: Define acronyms or terms that might be unfamiliar to ensure everyone reading the note understands the information.
Include Pertinent Details:
  • Relevant Information: Document all relevant findings, observations, and details related to the patient's condition, progress, or lack thereof.
  • Quantifiable Data: Use measurable data (e.g., measurements, test results) to provide concrete information whenever possible.
Focus on Patient-Centered Care:
  • Incorporate Patient Input: Reflect on the patient's goals, preferences, and feedback in the note. This fosters patient-centered care and aids in tailoring treatments.
  • Educational Information: Include instructions, explanations, or resources provided to the patient during the session to ensure comprehension and compliance.
Be Objective and Evidence-Based:
  • Objectivity: Ensure objectivity in the documentation. Differentiate between subjective information (patient reports) and objective findings (clinician observations).
  • Evidence-Based Statements: When applicable, support assessments and plans with evidence-based reasoning or research to reinforce the proposed interventions.
Accuracy and Timeliness:
  • Accurate Documentation: Double-check information before finalizing the note to avoid errors or inaccuracies that might affect patient care.
  • Timely Updates: Document changes or updates promptly to ensure the note reflects the current patient status and treatment plan.
Address Follow-Up and Long-Term Plans:
  • Continuity of Care: Include plans for follow-up sessions, referrals, or any modifications to the treatment plan.
  • Long-Term Goals: Outline long-term goals and potential outcomes to provide a comprehensive view of the patient's treatment trajectory.
Legal and Ethical Considerations:
  • Compliance and Privacy: Adhere to legal and ethical guidelines regarding patient confidentiality and compliance with healthcare regulations while documenting information.


These notes serve as a dynamic thread connecting healthcare providers, carrying vital information across the patient treatment and management continuum. A well-crafted SOAP note reflects the practitioner's diligence in understanding patients' concerns, interpreting clinical observations, and formulating a personalized plan to address their needs. It's a testament to the commitment to providing quality care, as it enables seamless communication between healthcare team members, fostering collaboration and informed decision-making.

In addition, these notes are not limited to the clinic or therapy room; they go beyond physical boundaries. They accompany patients throughout their healthcare journey, helping to maintain continuity of care, supporting treatment adjustments, and serving as a reference point for evaluating progress. As physical therapists continue to improve their note-taking practices by adopting both the structured format and the personalized approach essential for each patient, they strengthen the foundation of adequate healthcare provision—one SOAP note at a time.

Why settle for long hours of paperwork and bad UI when Spry exists?

Modernize your systems today for a more efficient clinic, better cash flow and happier staff.
Schedule a free demo today