By Tom Plowinske, SPT
- You don’t always need a doctor’s script to receive physical therapy treatment
Since January 1, 2015, all 50 states in the United States allow patients to seek care from licensed physical therapists without a referral from another medical professional, including a physician. In New York, a licensed PT with at least 3 years of clinical experience may treat a patient without a referral for up to 30 days or 10 visits, whichever comes first. It is the responsibility of the treating therapist to notify the patient of the possibility that their insurance may not cover the same services provided by direct access as it would if a referral were issued. Thus, it is advised that both the patient and the physical therapy office look into the individual’s insurance plan together. Even though PTs can see patients without an MD referral, the profession greatly values interdisciplinary communication and will contact the appropriate health professional if the initial evaluation warrants a need to do so. (More information on direct access can be found on the American Physical Therapy Association website, www.apta.org.)
- Physical therapy is highly regarded as a team effort between you and your therapist
Physical therapists have the knowledge base to identify underlying causes, employ manual techniques and prescribe exercises to facilitate recovery of function; but we rely heavily on you to put in some time on your own. A home exercise program (HEP) is provided to each patient to facilitate carryover in between sessions and promote a faster and smoother road to recovery. One of the most common reasons for less favorable outcomes from PT is that the patient expected all the gains to be made during the therapy sessions and did not adhere to their HEP. We as PTs will provide the best care and treatment as we can, but achieving the best possible results depends on a little work from you outside of the clinic.
- We the therapists want your feedback
Your goals are of utmost importance to us as physical therapists, so it is important to convey these to us on day 1. Additionally, don’t be afraid to give your PT feedback on how you are feeling during and after each session. It is easy to adjust the plan of care on a session by session basis; but it is not easy to read your mind and guess how you are feeling. There is no judgment if you feel you are being overtaxed or underworked, and we want to make sure you are getting the most out of our visits as possible.
- We’re often training your brain as much as your body
For every movement big or small, the brain is in control. This neuromuscular connection is incredibly important to physical therapists, as it is often a deficit in this mechanism that results in poor movement. It is true that it’s necessary to have the muscle strength to function, but it is just as important to be able to use the muscles correctly to perform the function properly. The brain is also responsible for interpreting pain signals, which can be blocked with PT interventions to help reduce and control your discomfort. Poor movement (such as limping) is often our brain’s way of protecting an injured body part, and it is the job of your PT to retrain the brain to allow for a more effective return to everyday function.
- At Capital Area PT, our physical therapy treatments are ever-evolving
The American Physical Therapy Association has recently shifted its focus to make physical therapy a more evidence-based practice by promoting research studies to improve diagnostic abilities and treatments. Thus, the physical therapy you received even just a few years ago is not the same as you will receive today. There are a number of novel treatment methods, philosophies, and tools that can be used to treat an extensive array of dysfunctions. Don’t be surprised if techniques such as taping, video analysis, advanced screening methods or creative exercises specific to your functional goals are utilized in your next PT session