Each year an average of 50 percent of all Americans over the age of 18 will experience a musculoskeletal injury that lasts longer than three months. This translates to more than 100 million people who could benefit from physical therapy. A physical therapist is one of the many members of your healthcare team alongside physicians, nurses, occupational therapists, and the like, that work to help maximize your health and function. Physical therapists are the team member who specialize in the evaluation and treatment of movement, pain, function, and the prevention of disability.
In the past a client could only receive physical therapy if given a physician’s order, or referral. However, as the field has evolved and because of the advent of “direct access,” physical therapists have become an entry point into the healthcare continuum. Direct access means that a client is not required to have a physician’s referral to be seen by a physical therapist. Upon being evaluated by a Doctor of Physical Therapy, that clinician will work with the client, family members, and other healthcare providers to work toward reaching that client’s functional goals.
What type of education do you have?
Physical therapy is a doctoral degree. This means that your physical therapist has had education to provide he or she with the skills and knowledge necessary to be your first point of contact in the healthcare continuum. They have received specific education geared to his or her ability to carry out differential diagnosis and refer you to other members of the healthcare team if needed.
Will I get a program to do at home as well?
Yes. Your physical therapist will utilize the information gathered during the evaluation and create an individualized home exercise program. This program will be explained to you at the evaluation and pictures/videos will be provided. These exercises will be a vital key to reaching your functional goals.
What should I wear?
It is important to wear comfortable clothes that you can move freely in. If you are seeing a clinician for a specific body part, it is important to wear clothes that will allow for visualization and evaluation of that area. General exercise attire may be required (e.g. athletic sneakers).
Will I work with the same clinician each time?
We do our best to maintain a specific therapist for the duration of your episode of care. If you will be seen by a different therapist than the individual who performed your evaluation, that clinician will be fully briefed on your case and you will be included in the discussion prior to such scheduling.
Do I need a prescription from my doctor?
Except for Medicare, all insurances allow for “direct access” to physical therapy. This means that a client can be seen by a physical therapist for an evaluation without a doctor’s referral. Based on the evaluation, your treating clinician will let you know if it would be advised for you to see a physician and help educate you on your options.