A common question I receive is, “Can I refer myself to physical therapy, or do I need a referral for physical therapy?”

Did you know that Oregon law allows for unrestricted access for patients to self-refer to physical therapy? Sure, most patients learn the benefits for physical therapy when their trusted care provider refers them to physical therapy for some musculoskeletal condition. But many people do not know that they can visit a PT on their own, without a physician’s referral.

This is considered Direct Access to physical therapy. Studies have shown that direct access to physical therapy can lead to expedited care, improved recovery outcomes, and decreased healthcare costs.

Physical therapists are highly trained to treat acute and chronic musculoskeletal conditions. We are experts in the movement systems of the human body. Furthermore, PT’s are quite reliable in distinguishing when a condition is outside of our scope of practice and needs to be treated by a physician.

PT’s are natural collaborators, understanding how important it is to communicate well with your entire healthcare team. Therefore, we will always send physical therapy evaluations and other forms of correspondence to the patient’s primary care physician or provider of choice when requested by the patient.

Direct access to physical therapy can often result in a quicker reduction of symptoms. We utilize our problem solving skills to evaluate the condition, determine a differential diagnosis, establish a treatment plan, and teach the patient how specific movement patterns and exercises can speed up recovery.

In addition, we use multiple tools in PT, such as our hands to reduce pain and improve function though manual therapy. This early access to healthcare can also result in less time missed from work, school, and life in general.

In regards to insurance, there are some insurance companies that do not require a referral and cover direct access to physical therapy as part of their benefits. Oftentimes, these are health plans offered by insurance companies which have thoroughly researched the effectiveness of physical therapy — its long-term, successful outcomes and how it can save in overall healthcare costs.

There are many insurances, however, that do require a referral for physical therapy. For example, Medicaid and Medicare require a referral to begin physical therapy.

Conditions that we successfully treat include:

  • Low back pain
  • Neck pain
  • Joint sprains
  • Muscle strains
  • Foot pain/ plantar fasciitis
  • Generalized weakness/ Balance Impairments
  • Tendonitis/ Tendinosus
  • Vertigo
  • Painful Posture Impairments/ Headache

If a person ever has questions as to whether physical therapy may be helpful, it’s best to give your friendly community physical therapy office a call. Here at Apex, we are always happy to field questions, give you an idea if Direct Access is an option and offer helpful suggestions.

Call us at 541-475-1218 or email me at [email protected].