Do I need a referral for physical therapy? How can a physical therapist help me? What is the training for a physical therapist?

Since 2013, direct access has allowed patients to be evaluated and treated by a physical therapist without a referral from a physician for up to 42 days. This means that as a patient, you can receive the treatment you need faster and at a lower overall cost. You will receive physical therapy services sooner, because you no longer have to visit your doctor or obtain a prescription before coming to PT. Cutting out that extra visit to your physician also results in reduced health care expenses for you.

Unsure if your symptoms are appropriate for physical therapy treatment? Do not worry. Today’s physical therapists are highly-skilled health care professionals with 7 years of post-secondary education to determine just that.

Recent physical therapy graduates must obtain not only a 4-year bachelor’s degree, but also a 3-year doctoral degree. Within that rigorous curriculum are several hands-on, clinical experiences in which physical therapy students practice under the supervision of a licensed physical therapist. Students must then pass a national board exam before becoming licensed themselves.

Extensive schooling prepares physical therapists to evaluate and treat disorders of an array of bodily systems (A few examples of systems are provided):

  • Musculoskeletal system (e.g. muscle strains, joint sprains, bone fractures)
  • Neuromuscular system (e.g. spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease)
  • Cardiopulmonary system (e.g. cardiac disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
  • Integumentary system (e.g. burns and wounds)

Physical therapists are also equipped to deferentially diagnose, or in other words, distinguish between conditions that may present in a similar manner. This helps determine whether a patient is an appropriate candidate for physical therapy. If a patient is determined inappropriate for physical therapy, then a referral is made to the proper healthcare professional.

The next time you are in need of physical therapy, do not hesitate to contact Mallers & Swoverland Orthopaedic Physical Therapy to schedule an evaluation. Direct access gives you the right to efficient care from skilled physical therapists who are ready to evaluate and treat you today.

Kristin Collins, PT, DPT, COMT