Adam Wirtz, DPT, PT, OCS
In celebration of National Physical Therapy Month, I thought it would be beneficial to share some facts about our profession:
Physical therapists (PT’s) are movement experts who optimize quality of life through prescribed exercise, hands-on care, and patient education. PT’s and the licensed physical therapist assistants (PTA’s) they may team with provide care across the lifespan to anyone of any ability.
There are many benefits to physical therapy. Some of which include the following:
Ø It can maximize your movement. PT’s can identify, diagnose, and treat movement problems. Pain-free movement is essential for good quality of life, your ability to earn a living, and your ability to remain independent.
Ø Personalized care that meets your specific needs. PT’s design individualized treatment plans to address each patients’ needs, challenges, and goals. PT’s and PTA’s improve patient mobility, manage/decrease pain and other chronic conditions, recovery from injury/surgery, and aim to prevent future injury and chronic disease.
Ø Accessibility. PT’s and PTA’s provide care in a variety of settings including hospitals, private practices, outpatient clinics, homes, schools, sports and fitness facilities, work settings, and nursing homes.
Ø Active participation in care. PT’s and PTA’s empower and motivate people to be active participants in their care. They also work in collaboration with other medical professionals to make sure patients receive high quality, comprehensive care.
Ø Reduces use of opioids. In certain situations, when dosed appropriately, prescription opioid medications can be an appropriate part of medical care. However, current CDC guidelines are urging medical providers to consider safer alternatives to opioids, like physical therapy, for most long-term pain management. Opioids have several risks including depression, overdose, and addiction; plus withdrawal symptoms when stopping use.
Ø Avoid surgery. Before undergoing expensive or invasive surgery, consider physical therapy first. There is mounting evidence that physical therapy can be as effective, or in some cases, even better than surgery for conditions such as meniscal tears and knee osteoarthritis, rotator cuff tears, spinal stenosis, and degenerative disk disease.
Now that you are aware of some of the benefits of PT, let’s address the topic of direct access.
Did you know that you have the freedom to choose your own physical therapist?
Ø Currently, you may be evaluated by a PT without a physician’s referral in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. In addition, all 50 states and the District of Columbia allow some level of treatment by a PT without a physician’s referral. This is referred to as “direct access” to physical therapy services.
Ø Some insurance policies may require you to see a primary care provider or physician prior to seeing a physical therapist. Also, some insurers may limit your access to preferred providers only. Contact your insurance company to make sure you are aware of any of these policies.
Ø If you have Medicare as your primary insurance, you are able to see a PT for an evaluation without a physician’s referral. The PT would then send the plan of care to the patient’s physician for signature. Once this is signed, treatment can be continued.
Ø Your physician may refer you for physical therapy that is provided in the physician’s office, or to a facility in which the physician has a financial interest. However, you are not obligated to attend PT in any specific facility or location. You can choose where you would prefer to attend physical therapy and which licensed physical therapist you would like to see- if you have a preference.
Now that you know all about the benefits of PT and your ability to choose your physical therapist, the next time you have an aching knee, a bum shoulder, or an injured lower back, consider finding a physical therapist to help you get back to moving well!
You can find a physical therapist in your area at www.moveforwardpt.com