Suppose you overdo it at the gym on leg day. Or you tweak your back doing
something as mundane as reaching for your daughter’s toy under the back seat of
the car. You decide to take it easy for a couple of days. Only the pain
doesn’t seem to be going away. What do you do next?

If you go to your primary care physician, it may take weeks and multiple trips to the
MRI center and doctor’s office (as well as multiple co-pays) before they finally
decide to send you to physical therapy.

Instead, how about taking matters into your own hands. You know your body best, and you
have the option to choose therapy care first. In 2015, a law was signed that
allows patients to self-refer to physical therapists. It’s called direct access. So do
your body and your wallet a favor, and call your PT first to schedule an evaluation.

Benefits of Seeing a Physical Therapist First

You’ll get better faster and you’ll…
1. Increase your chances of pain-free movement in the future. Physical therapists
are experts who can identify, diagnose and treat movement problems.

2. Potentially avoid expensive and invasive surgery. For some conditions, including meniscal
tears, knee osteoarthritis, rotator cuff tears and spinal stenosis, physical therapy has
been found to be as effective as surgery.

What Medical Research Says
There’s a new study out that tracked 150,000 patients with lower back pain over the
course of one year. Researchers found that those who received care from a physical
therapist first had lower healthcare costs overall – on average, $500 less. They
also had a 15% lower probability of having to make an ER trip and reduced the need
for a dangerous opioid prescription by a whopping 89%! A previous study done in
2011 showed very similar results.

Back pain is one of the most common reasons for a medical visit. It’s estimated that
Americans spend up to $100 billion each year trying to find relief from their aching
backs. That includes an array of expensive MRIs, tests, treatments, injections,
prescriptions and surgical procedures. As a result, many are starting to question
whether those painful, expensive treatments for back pain are really helping. Plus,
complications and deaths due to pain management have increased dramatically in
the past ten years.

What About My Insurance and Physical Therapy?

Georgia law allows patients to go directly to a physical therapist without going
through a medical doctor first. This can save you time (so you can get relief faster)
and save the cost of extra doctor’s office visits and co-pays. Most insurance plans
will reimburse you for physical therapy without being referred by a physician.
Medicare will also allow you to see a physical therapist first. Tricare is in the process
of changing to the same policy after the President signed the National Defense
Authorization Act into law in December 2017. If you choose not to go through
insurance, it’s $65 per visit.

The bottom line? If you’re suffering from an ache, pain or injury and you’re pretty
sure of the cause, you can save time and money by heading to the physical therapist
first. If you have any questions, call the staff at Southern Rehab and Sports Medicine.
Talk it over with them and see if it’s the right choice for you. With three locations in
LaGrange, West Point and Columbus, they’re close by and ready to help.