Almost every circus artist I've spoken with about prior physical therapy experience says something like this: "It was ok, he/she was really nice, but..."
They don't understand what trapeze/ silks/ pole/ handbalancing is or what it requires of my body
They only spent 15 minutes with me before handing me off to a high school PT aide
The exercises they gave me weren't appropriate for the demands of my apparatus
Here's a quick guide to finding an AWESOME physio in your area.
Do a quick google search for PT's in your area that specialize in performing arts, dance, or gymnastics. This is MUCH more common than PT's specializing in Circus Arts. If you have no luck here, search for sports PT clinics. Try to narrow your results to 2-3 clinics with good reviews (thanks, yelp!)
Check their Creds
Once you found one or two sports clinics with good reviews, toggle over to the "bio's" section of the website to check the various PT's credentials. Almost all PT's have either a masters or a doctorate degree- this will be designated at the end of their name as either MSPT (masters) or DPT (doctorate). I know a LOT of awesome masters-level PT's, and I rarely choose a PT solely based on their terminal degree.
What I WILL base my decision on is if they are a board certified specialist. This means that they spent at least a year of time outside of graduate school sub-specializing in treating a specific population. For circus artists (and athletes in general), I STRONGLY recommend that they have either OCS or SCS behind their name. This means they are either an orthopedic specialist or a sports specialist. Less than 10% of PT's in the US have a board certification, so this credential does carry a good deal of weight.
Bonus credentials include: ATC (certified athletic trainer), CSCS (certified strength and conditioning specialist), FAAOMPT (has completed a fellowship in manual therapy).
For example: Jennifer Crane, PT, DPT, OCS, ATC means that I have a doctorate degree, am a board-certified orthopedic specialist, and a certified athletic trainer.
Find a PT with as many of the aforementioned credentials as possible, but OCS/SCS at minimum.
Call 'em up
Once you've found one or two PT's that meet the criteria above, call the clinic and speak to the receptionist. These are the questions I like to ask:
How much one-on-one time does the therapist spend with the patient each visit before passing them off to an assistant or aid? I don't accept anything less than 30 minutes, and prefer 45-60.
What manual therapy techniques does the therapist use? My favorites for athletes include joint mobilization/manipulation, active release technique (ART), graston/ASTYM, dry needling, and cupping. The key here is that they have a wide array of treatment techniques and not just one or two. No one technique is perfect for everyone!
You can also ask them to expand on the experience the therapist has with performing artists/dancers/gymnasts, to give you a better idea of their history.
This may be unpopular, but its very true. Some of the best therapists I know have what are referred to as "cash-based practices," and are not in-network with insurance companies. This means that you essentially pay a set fee for a set amount of time with the therapist...much like you would with a massage therapist or personal trainer. THIS IS MY FAVORITE MODEL, and it's the model I use in my clinic. This allows the physio to treat unrestricted by insurance regulations or clinic productivity requirements. Because insurance companies reimburse only 25-50% of what is actually billed by the physio, many PT clinics often use PT assistants or aids to fill therapy time. They also frequently use antiquated modalities like ultrasound that are ineffective but reimbursed by insurance. As a result, therapists in these clinics have to treat 4-5 patients per hour to combat the poor insurance reimbursement. In the cash-based model, the PT is free to work outside the restrictions of insurance companies and have longer treatment times that are suited to exactly what the patient needs. Additionally, insurance often will not reimburse visits beyond those necessary to return to basic "activities of daily living," which sadly does not include recreational sports or circus arts. In this "cash-based" model, you and your PT are in charge of your care...NOT your insurance company!
There are many different factors to consider while selecting your physical therapist...but these are some good guidelines to get you started on your search!