Study Finds Seeing a Physical Therapist First is a Good Decision

Recently, APTA (American Physical Therapy Association) published news about a small study which showed that patients who saw a physical therapist first for primary assessment (instead of a general physician) did as well, or better, in terms of measurable recovery. Although the study, conducted in Sweden, is admittedly a small number of patients, it also replicates what APTA has found with their own follow-up. We looked at what the study shows, and why you might try starting with your PT first.

The Study

The study was conducted in Sweden and followed 55 patients who saw a physical therapist for their primary medical evaluation, as opposed to a general practitioner physician. Researchers worked with several different primary health care centers, each of which had a different socioeconomic population – so the study represented a diverse group of individuals. The study itself showed that of the participants, there were only positive effects from physical therapist primary visits, ranging from outcomes of “pain, disability, and health-related quality of life” with the follow-up ranging from two-weeks to two years. The study authors wrote that there were no negative effects observed, and believe that the study indicates that PT primary visits can result in “slightly better” patient outcomes.

The Benefits

We’ve written previously about why you should visit your physical therapist first for issues or injury of the musculoskeletal system. This study is an encouraging sign that the data backs up what we see, and what APTA has seen in their own reviews. By bypassing the GP’s office, you can receive an exam by an expert who specializes in the musculoskeletal system. Your physical therapist can recommend a custom treatment plan, and also discuss if imaging or another specialist is warranted. On the other hand, if you see a GP first, you could end up spending numerous medical visits and wasted weeks before you end up in physical therapy. Many people may hesitate to call a physical therapist, thinking mistakenly that the PT only follows their doctor’s orders. In fact, your physical therapist is typically a doctor in her/her own right, and specializes exclusively in the musculoskeletal system. Your physical therapist will develop your treatment plan specifically based on your exam, and create a custom plan designed to work with your condition, ability, goals, and more.

If you start out with your physical therapist, you’ll likely start right where you need to be. You’ll be able to have an immediate assessment, as well as a treatment plan which could include manual therapy and an at-home exercise program. If you do need imaging or to see a specific type of specialist, your PT will be able to suggest where you should go. You’ll save time, money, and likely end up with exactly the treatment you need without wasting time. Thanks to direct access laws, you’re able to call your physical therapist and make an appointment without waiting for a referral. Your PT’s office will then work with your insurance company and your doctor’s office, should a referral be necessary for future appointments.

If you’re waiting to see a physical therapist, don’t put it off. Call Body One Physical Therapy today! We’re locally-owned and operated, with four locations serving Central Indiana: North Indianapolis, South Indianapolis, Fishers, and Zionsville. Don’t wait to be sent to the right place, start there instead. Our team of caring, expert physical therapists sees clients of all ages and activity levels and we’d love to get you on the road to recovery. Call and schedule your appointment today!