The days of needing a prescription for physical therapy are over! In the past it was required for a patient to see an orthopedic surgeon or other physician before visiting a physical therapist, however today you can skip the doctor’s office entirely.
Some people may think it is risky to first see a physical therapist before a physician but these highly trained healthcare providers are knowledgeable enough to point out what the problem is and evaluate whether or not they can fix the problem. A physical therapist will recommend a patient to a physician if they see the matter is more severe than their expertise can ameliorate. Physical therapists have an ample formal education and clinical experience. There is no risk with gong to a physical therapist first, if anything it will save you time and money.
Everyone loves saving money and time is something none of us have enough of. If you hurt your ankle on the trails you would usually make an appointment with your primary care physician or even an orthopedic surgeon as soon as possible, unfortunately that could be weeks from when you make the call. When you see the doctor you wait in the waiting room and pay the copay- if an orthopedic surgeon, a specialist fee. Once you are seen they may write you a script for physical therapy, in which case you have to call to make an appointment with them and start the process over again. At this point your physical therapist appointment may be up to a month after your incident and your pain and damage may have increased. You also may have taken off of work for your doctor’s appointment and now you paid the copay to the specialist. Physical therapists often have late night and weekend hours convenient for working patients. With direct access this process probably could have taken half the time and been significantly cheaper and much less time consuming.
Worst case scenario the physical therapist sends you to an orthopedic surgeon, which will probably refer you back to the physical therapist after their treatment is completed. If you think you have a relatively minor muscle or joint injury consider skipping the doctor at first and getting the opinion of a physical therapist.