How much do you know about physical therapy? Most people know what PT is, and have a good idea about how it works, but there are some things that the physical therapists at Therapeutic Associates wish everybody knew, that many don’t.
Here are the top 4 things our PTs want you to know about physical therapy.
# 1 — Physical therapists do much more than treat people after surgery or major injuries!
“I wish everybody knew all the different things we treat in physical therapy. So often people know that we treat postoperative conditions or chronic back pain, the classics, but we can also help with so much that’s outside of the typical physical therapy box, including things that aren’t even pain related. Urinary incontinence is a good example, and other pelvic floor conditions. We treat balance dysfunction and address things like fall risk in older adults. There is really just a whole host of things we treat.”
“PT is for so much more than people realize. Maybe you’re sitting at the office, and you just have this problem that’s getting in the way of work – whether it’s shoulder pain or headaches. I love treating headaches – it’s one of the most satisfying things as a physical therapist. Or maybe you just don’t feel strong enough to do the things you want to do around the house, or that you can do your yardwork, but you pay for it for days afterward because your body hurts or is so worn out from it. These are all things PT can help you with.”
# 2 — Physical therapists have extensive education, including a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree!
“I wish everyone knew the educational background of physical therapists and how the knowledge base of PTs is a really valuable tool in the musculoskeletal world. We work very hard on a narrow scope – the musculoskeletal system and neuromuscular systems. This ensures our ability to test, diagnose, and rehabilitate these types of injuries/problems effectively and efficiently. If the general population and even clinical providers knew that PTs have a doctor-level degree and understood the depth of our knowledge, they would likely be more inclined to choose physical therapy first in an episode of care. I’m commonly met with surprise from patients whose symptoms improve quickly with physical therapy, and if they knew the level of education and training we have, they wouldn’t enter PT with any doubt.”
“The extensive education that physical therapists have is designed to put us at the top of all medical providers when it comes to how people’s bodies move and what impacts their function. The Doctor of Physical Therapy degree (DPT) ensures that PTs have the knowledge and experience to assess injuries, pain and dysfunction and to provide an expert diagnosis and plan for recovery. When someone is sick, they should see their primary care doctor, but I want everyone to know that PTs are the optimal first-choice provider to go to when it hurts to move a certain way or when they stop doing something they love because of pain or discomfort.”
# 3 — Everyone has direct access to physical therapy without a referral – you don’t need to visit a physician before seeking care from a PT!
“I wish everyone knew that it is within the scope of practice for physical therapists to see patients without a referral from a physician or any other medical provider. In every state, people have direct access to physical therapists. There can be some requirements or qualifications for insurance coverage, which varies between carriers and even between plans, but front office staff at our clinics can verify your benefits – including direct access coverage. By coming to physical therapy first, you avoid unnecessary delays, interventions and costs to treatment and will get better faster.”
“If everyone knew about direct access, people could get better faster, while also spending less. Instead of waiting for a visit with your primary care doctor, going to urgent care or waiting for a specialist, you can come straight to PT and often can begin treatment right away. Furthermore, physical therapists are extensively educated and highly skilled in assessing patients and evaluating if PT is right for them. Differential diagnosis (figuring out what is contributing to a patient’s problem) is one of the top skills of a PT, so patients are in excellent hands going to PT first and can rest assured their therapist will advise them to seek other medical attention if needed.”
Want to know more?
Review the FAQ section on our Direct Access page, and check out our blog — 5 Facts About the Benefit of Direct Access to Physical Therapy.
A new report by the American Physical Therapy Association shows the economic value of physical therapy in the United States. This video summarizes the findings.
# 4 — Physical therapy is not a one-size-fits-all treatment approach!
“I wish more people knew that you can trust your physical therapist to meet you where you are versus having to conform into some ideal of a patient. I think more people would seek to partner with a physical therapist if they knew that it is not structured, but is dynamic in how it can meet their specific needs. We really listen. What’s meaningful to them – lifting their child in and out of the pool 50 times a day in the summer? Being able to ski moguls in the winter? Within our profession we have the gift of time, so we have the opportunity to learn about our patients and can tie their program to the things they really love, the things that bring their lives richness.”
“Understanding what motivates their patients enables physical therapists to create customized treatment plans that lead to the best possible outcomes. By focusing on the meaning behind their patients’ goals, the practitioners avoid a cookie-cutter approach and bypass the idea of prescribing general exercises for the injury or condition they’re addressing. Instead, every plan of care is specific to individual patients and to exactly what they want and need to get out of physical therapy.”