Physical therapists work closely with physicians such as orthopedists, neurologists, pediatricians, general practitioners, neurosurgeons, and podiatrists. In collaboration with these other health care providers, PTs work to help patients achieve healthy, active lifestyles. They manage health care over the long term and can be instrumental in helping to avoid injury in the first place.
Because of a law called Direct Access, it has become increasingly common for physical therapists to begin seeing patients without a physician referral. Direct Access to physical therapy has been law in Pennsylvania for over 10 years and allows patients timely access to physical therapy as an entry point into the health care system. Most health insurance plans cover physical therapy obtained under this law, as long as a therapist is Direct Access certified. (Medicare is the exception to this rule)
In addition to allowing the healing process to start sooner, seeing a physical therapist first can make good financial sense. There are times when a few sessions of PT are sufficient for full recovery, and expensive x-rays, MRIs and medications are not necessary. If it does turn out that an injury is more complicated and a patient needs further diagnostic tests, these can easily be ordered afterward. Physical therapists are trained to know their limits and refer patients to physicians when the injury is beyond the scope of their expertise.
During an initial physical therapy visit, a patient can expect an in-depth assessment of their specific pain. Goals for treatment will also be discussed. After a thorough evaluation is performed, an individualized treatment plan will be initiated. The patient and physical therapist will work together as a team towards achieving the goals that are established. Common treatments used in PT include therapeutic exercises, manual (hands on) therapy, and a home exercise program for the patient.
Choosing a physical therapist is much like choosing one of your physicians. It is best to do some research to find a PT who is knowledgeable, compassionate, and will treat you like the individual that you are. Be your own advocate and investigate your options prior to scheduling your first appointment: making a phone call or a visit to a clinic is always a good idea. Or turn to friends and family members who may be able to offer advice based on experience.
A good physical therapist can help you improve your quality of life. You can live your life pain-free and get moving and enjoying life again. In many cases this can be achieved without surgery or prescription medication. Call us to get on the path to a pain-free life today!