Depending on your insurance plan, it might feel like you need a referral for any healthcare professional that you need.
Good news: that’s not true for physical therapy.
All 50 states have direct access legislation, which means that you can see a physical therapist directly, without a referral from your doctor, no matter which insurance you have.
That’s one less trip to the doctor’s office (and one less payment just to get a referral).
Plus, it means you can choose the best physical therapist for your needs. You are not restricted by picking within a network. Most insurances cover at least part of the cost for physical therapy.
Choose a physical therapist who specializes in your specific issue (for example, a physical therapist who specializes in spine physical therapy if you’re suffering with lower back pain).
A physical therapist is an expert in movement, physical injuries, and pain. This means you’ll get an accurate diagnosis and a much better treatment from a physical therapist than you would from your regular doctor.
Isn’t it nice to know that you can get expert treatment immediately?
Myth #2: A Physical Therapist Does Not Have More Training Than a Personal Trainer
Physical therapists, personal trainers…same thing, right?
A lot of people confuse personal trainers with physical therapists. They are actually very different from one another.
First, let’s start with the difference in education and training:
A personal trainer does not need to have certification (although the best personal trainers are NSCA certified).
On the other hand, all physical therapists in the United States must have a doctorate’s degree in physical therapy, in addition to continuous hands-on training.
A personal trainer isn’t required to have training to legally offer personal training services, but a physical therapist must receive a Doctor of Physical Therapy, which requires about seven years of schooling at a college/university.
Next, let’s look at the difference in what they do:
The actual jobs of a personal trainer and physical therapist are a lot different, as well.
A personal trainer helps people reach fitness goals. They guide clients through cardio and strength training exercises that are designed to help the client meet goals such as losing weight, getting toned, or getting faster.
A physical therapist helps prevent and treat pain, stiffness, or injuries. A physical therapist’s mission is to get patients back in motion and stay in motion.
So, while a personal trainer is not trained to help a client recover from a physical injury, they can refer the client to a great physical therapist who can.
Meanwhile, while a physical therapist does not specialize in certain fitness goals such as weight loss, they can refer the patient to a great personal trainer who can.
Myth #3: You Can Only Visit a Physical Therapist if You Are Already Hurt
If you’re reading this, our guess is that you’re currently dealing with pain or an injury.
That’s because most people only show up to physical therapy after they’ve had pain, stiffness, or an injury for at least a week.
But if you’re NOT experiencing these issues – why ever have to deal with them? You’re one of the lucky few that can get ahead and use physical therapy as preventative medicine rather than an after-the-fact treatment.
A lot of people assume that physical therapists only help people recover from injuries – not prevent them.
This assumption is totally false.
Although physical therapists successfully treat a variety of injuries and conditions, they’re also experts in injury prevention.
A physical therapist can easily pinpoint your “weak spots” (such as muscular imbalances, technique issues, or tightness) and work to strengthen those areas to help you avoid injury.
Physical therapy is usually the best option for many other conditions as well, such as:
Myth #4: Physical Therapy is Just a Bunch of Exercises that
I can Try from Home
You may have heard that people who see a physical therapist are given a lot of exercises to do.
It’s true that you’ll likely perform strengthening, stretching, and mobility exercises that are specific to your goals.
However, a great physical therapist provides more than just exercises for you to do at home.
Research has shown that the most effective physical therapy programs for common injuries (like knee pain) use a combination of exercise-based and manual therapy.
Manual therapy is a technique in which a physical therapist uses his or her hands (or a specialized tool) to remobilize joints, alleviate pain, reduce stiffness, or adjust the spine.
You will recover faster if you get the combination of these treatments from a physical therapist.
Plus, a physical therapist will monitor your exercises to ensure you’re doing them right. Many people who try at-home treatments end up hurting themselves further because they choose the wrong type of exercises or do their exercises incorrectly.
Unless you choose a specific treatment like deep tissue massage, physical therapy should never hurt. If you feel any pain with your physical therapy, tell your physical therapist.
The aim of physical therapy is to alleviate pain and get patients back in motion, symptom-free, as quickly as possible.
You may experience soreness within 48 hours of trying new exercises, but you should not experience any pain.
Those who don’t mind the pain of muscle knots getting broken up might ask for foam rolling or deep tissue massage as part of their physical therapy treatment. While these treatments can help you recover quicker, they are more painful and therefore aren’t for everyone.
A great physical therapist will always check in with the patient to make sure there is no pain with the treatment. If your physical therapist does not do that, speak up and consider seeing a different one.
Out of all the physical therapy myths we’ve listed, this one is the most dangerous.
Unfortunately, this myth is further circulated when non-specialist doctors like primary care doctors send a patient home with painkillers and the advice to “take it easy.”
But physical therapists, who specialize in pain and injury prevention and treatment, know better.
Painkillers and rest can help you feel better short term because they hide your symptoms. However, they won’t actually help you in the long run because they don’t fix the underlying problem that contributed to your pain or injury.
When painkillers and rest are given as treatment, the patient will end up with weaker muscles — making the patient more prone to severe injuries.
Also, patients who rely on painkillers can often spiral into dependence and addiction.
While painkillers and bedrest might appear cheaper, they often will cost you so much more over time than if you were to see a physical therapist right away. This is because your injury/pain can get worse without the right treatment, to the point where expensive and invasive surgery is needed.
That doesn’t sound fun, does it?
That’s why you should see a physical therapist, who will give you a cause-based treatment that rids the problem for good.
Myth #7: All Physical Therapists Give the Same Treatments
You should actually do your research before choosing a physical therapist, because not all physical therapists are the same.
Some physical therapists have more years of experience, training, and are backed with great patient testimonials.
You’ll want to pick a physical therapist who specializes in whatever you’re going in for. For example, if you have back pain, you’ll want to see a physical therapist who specializes in the spine. Or, if you want to prevent sports injuries, you’ll want to see a physical therapist who specializes in sports injury treatment and prevention.
It is recommended to choose a privately owned physical therapy clinic rather than a hospital-based clinic.
The physical therapists at privately owned clinics often have more experience treating specific injuries and will get you better with less visits than you would need at a hospital-based clinic.
We’ve Knocked Out These Myths. Now Let’s Knock Out Your Pain, For Good
Now that these common physical therapy myths are busted, what’s stopping you from getting the best treatment out there for your pain/injury?
Our physical therapists at Back In Motion are experts in injury prevention and treatment.
We regularly help people like you get back in motion again without pain.
Dr. Scott Gray is an internationally recognized and expert physical therapist specializing in sport, athletic, and back and neck injuries. He is the inventor of a revolutionary form of treatment called the GRAY METHOD. This type of treatment unlike others, addresses the CAUSE rather than just your SYMPTOMS with a full body approach. For more information on how to ease or overcome your injury, go to www.backinmotionsspt.com.