Many people assume that those seeing a physical therapist were referred to do so by their primary care physician or a specialist. While this may be the case for many, it’s important to understand that a referral is not required to begin physical therapy, and if you’re in pain, it may be the best choice to see a physical therapist before resorting to other specialists or treatments. It’s true! Physical therapy has a wide range of treatment options, which can provide long-lasting pain relief and injury recovery for a large number of ailments that would typically be referred to a pain specialist. And while it is true that physical therapists see many patients suffering from sports injuries or accident-related issues, there is a large patient population that seeks out PT over more traditional pain management methods, like prescription medication, injections, or surgery.
So, I can make an appointment with a physical therapist, even if my doctor didn’t refer me?
Absolutely! Physical therapy is included under what is known as Direct Access, which is another way of saying that there is no state law requiring a physician referral for a specific treatment. According to Synergy Physical Therapy’s Alicia Martinez, PTA, “Arizona is a direct access state, meaning that unless stated by your insurance policy or if you have Medicare, a physical therapy prescription from a doctor is not required for physical therapy. We do, however, complete insurance verifications before you start physical therapy to see if your policy requires a prescription from a doctor.”
While most people would immediately think to call their family doctor at the first sign of pain, scheduling a consultation with a physical therapist can oftentimes lead to a more personalized treatment plan, which can reduce or eliminate the need for pain medication or invasive procedures. With the United States struggling to combat a worsening opioid abuse epidemic, many patients are starting to see that alternative pain management options do exist. At Synergy Physical Therapy, we believe in treating pain through natural movement and manipulation-based therapies that allow the body to regain pain-free function without the use of debilitating medications or procedures. Of course, every case is unique, and some patients may be best-suited for more aggressive medical treatment. By scheduling your free physical therapy consultation, our therapists will be able to provide a more accurate treatment strategy for your situation.
If I choose to try physical therapy and I don’t need a referral, would I need to pay cash for treatment?
Not necessarily! While some scenarios may require patients to pay cash, most insurance plans can be billed for physical therapy treatment.
Synergy PTA Alicia Martinez explains, “While we do have cash rates for people without insurance, or for those who have maxed out their benefits, if your insurance policy does not require a PT prescription then we still can bill your insurance policy.”
It’s a common misconception that pursuing any sort of alternative treatment outside of a physician’s referral will require a patient to pay outside of insurance. We are happy to work with your insurance provider to maximize any benefits you are eligible to receive, and we would let you know about your coverage before beginning any treatment.
When I hear about physical therapy, I think of patients being mostly athletes with injuries. How can it help someone like me?
While physical therapy is absolutely a standard treatment for patients with sports injuries or athletes looking to improve function and mobility, physical therapy has treatment options available for people of any age, any injury, and any type of pain. Because we focus on returning the body to a normal state of function, the therapies you would experience at Synergy are capable of treating the underlying cause of nearly any pain-inducing disfunction you are experiencing.
According to Alicia, “Physical therapy can be beneficial for those who have not had an injury but are experiencing general pain. This is because we assess and identify the issues that are causing your pain to create a plan of care that will correct those deficiencies.”
At Synergy Physical Therapy, our therapists have experience treating a wide range of pain issues, including the common strains and sprains, to more complex issues like migraines and nerve pain. Even disorders like scoliosis, which many believe are unable to be corrected without invasive procedures, may be improved through physical therapy by building strength to support the abnormalities in the structure of the spine.
If you are in pain, regardless of the cause or type, scheduling a physical therapy consultation may the best first step to treatment.
What if I have been seen by a pain management physician who recommended injections, surgery, or pain medication. Would trying physical therapy first be an option for me?
Not only is it a good idea, but it may be the key to longer lasting pain relief. One of the biggest downfalls of treating pain through medication or injections is that the underlying cause of the pain is not being fully addressed. While the pain may be masked by the medication or steroid injections temporarily, it will keep returning until the disfunction in the body that is causing the pain has been corrected
According to Alicia, “Trying physical therapy before injections, surgery or pain medications is a great idea because often times your pain is a result of muscle weakness, tightness and/or poor body mechanics and can be resolved through manual interventions and corrective exercises. Any time you can avoid something as serious as surgery or taking pain medication is a plus.”
As we mentioned previously, every patient is unique, and there may be situations that require surgical intervention and medication. However, it is never a bad idea to explore alternate options like physical therapy before deciding on a more aggressive plan of action.
Always remember that you have options
Healthcare in America can be a complicated process, and in many cases, it leaves patients without a full understanding of the power they have in their own treatment. It’s important to remember that you are in control of your path to a pain-free life, and there are many options available to you outside of the standard specialists you may be referred to. We encourage you to visit Synergy Physical Therapy for a free consultation if you are interested in learning more about how we treat pain, and how we differ from a more mainstream treatment.
At Synergy, we encourage all patients to explore every option they have available in order to determine the best course of action for their treatment. Although we believe physical therapy to be one of the most all-encompassing approaches to pain management, we will work with you during your initial consultation to determine if it’s the right step for you.
Synergy Physical Therapy is a Scottsdale-based, highly specialized rehabilitation clinic committed to helping patients meet their performance, health, and life goals. If you need help healing, whether from a sports injury, accident, or surgery, please feel free to contact us at 480.767.0794 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.