3 Reasons to Get Physical Therapy First Before Contacting Your MD

3 Reasons to Get Physical Therapy First Before Contacting Your MD

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During the cold, Minnesota winters, ice commonly becomes a danger and can lead to injury.  Imagine on one of these cold, slippery days you slipped and sprained your ankle, bruised your knee, or hurt your back.  You try and manage the pain for a few days or weeks on your own, but you feel no relief.  Now what? Should I call my primary care physician?  Should I go to urgent care? Should I book an appointment to see a specialist?  Before you contact your MD, consider another option: physical therapy.

I know what you are thinking:  “I need a referral to see a physical therapist.”  In most cases, you do NOT need a referral to see a physical therapist.  Minnesota is known as a direct access state. This means you can legally see a physical therapist without needing a referral from another provider.

So why get physical therapy first?  Here are three reasons why…

1. It will cost you less

Physical therapy is significantly cheaper than office visits, injections, surgeries, and other typical interventions for orthopedic conditions. The average cost to the consumer of an MRI was $500-$4000 in 2016 as per a study performed in the state of Iowa.  This is the direct cost to you and NOT what insurance covered.  Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle, WA conducted a study in which low back pain patients were seen immediately by physical therapists rather than MDs, specialists, and eventually imaging.  Seeing a physical therapist first cost approximately $1,100 less than the traditional, referral approach. Lower cost is better, but do you get as good as outcomes?  This leads me to my next point…

2. You will improve faster

The sooner you begin physical therapy, the better the outcome.  The University of Wisconsin Hospitals and clinics adapted a direct access care model for physical therapy.  Patients who were seen by direct access were improved in a shorter period of time, described a greater pain reduction, and had significantly fewer visits.

3. We can refer you to the appropriate health care professional if needed

As Doctors of Physical Therapy, we are trained to screen and identify possible factors that may interfere with your care, and we can refer you to the appropriate health care professional. Health care often involves multiple medical disciplines, and we will communicate with all parties to make sure you are receiving the best care possible.

All in all, getting physical therapy first can cost less, lead to optimal outcomes, and if questions arise along the course of treatment, we can communicate with appropriate medical professionals to ensure you get relief.  Schedule an appointment today!



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3 Reasons to Get Physical Therapy First Before Contacting Your MD

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Westermann, R.W., Schick, C., Graves, C.M. et al. Clin Orthop Relat Res (2016). doi:10.1007/s11999-016-5181-9.

Fuhrmans, V 2007. A novel plan helps hospital wean itself off pricey tests. Wall Street Journal. January 12.

Boissonnault W, Badke M, Powers J.  Pursuit and Implementation of Hospital‐ Based Outpatient Direct Access to Physical Therapy Services: An Administrative Case Report.  Phys Ther. 2010;90(1):100‐109.

Derek Scheevel

Derek Scheevel

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