Physical Therapy has gone through a major, major expansion in the last 10 years. So much so, in fact, that as laws are trying to change quickly enough to keep up with our progress, our clientele is growing each and every year. Patients can now seek physical therapy treatment to some extent in all 50 states without a physician's referral. Although "to some extent" varies greatly throughout the states, progress is shifting forward to allow more individuals than ever the ability to seek physical therapy.
I, myself, have encountered many "non-believers" in the concepts of physical therapy, so I decided to host a little questionnaire with a couple of patients to see what exactly it was that they were curious about.
"How long has physical therapy been around, and why is it I've never heard of it before?"
Physical therapy was actually started as a "reconstruction aid" program during World War 1, back in the early 1900's - what's known today as the APTA was started shortly thereafter in 1921. In the 1960's, the APTA introduced the Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) to aid with the serious lack of physical therapists required to handle the overwhelming number of patients that required treatment during the Korean War. So long-story-short, it's been around for quite some time, now.
"Why is it I've never heard of Physical Therapy before?"
Why have you never heard it before? For the same reason you've never heard of an Otolaryngologist (more commonly known as an ear, nose, and throat specialist) until you actually needed one: visits to specialists require a physician's prescription.
"What's the difference between a Chiropractor and a Physical Therapist?"
Truth be told: we do something very similar, the difference is the method of approach. TYPICALLY (notice, I said typically), a chiropractor is going to provide fast, but short-term relief, whereas a physical therapist is going to provide slower, but long-term relief.
For example, consider a patient who's primary concern is back pain due to a misaligned spine. One manipulation adjustment from a Chiropractor, that patient is suddenly pain-free and free to go about their day. However, pain can return as quickly as later that day, to months later. A physical therapist, on the other hand, while they may perform a manipulation to relieve the pain immediately, they're going to treat the muscles surrounding that area of the spine. The skeleton is nothing more than a lever system being controlled by the muscles, tendons, and ligaments that attach to it. If certain muscles are too tight, or certain muscles are too lax, that'll require stretching and strengthening to even the muscle tone surrounding those misaligned bones. Once the muscle tone is evened out, the bones will no longer be misaligned. So does it take longer? Yes. But does it last longer and give you the tools to prevent it from coming back? Yes.
Keep in mind, your physician made their decision on which to send you to for a reason and it is of the utmost importance that you trust their judgement on which they've sent you to. Not all conditions can be treated by both specialties. Some conditions, in certain cases, can be ruled out by seeing one versus the other.
"How long do Physical Therapists have to be in school?"
Physical therapists are required by law to have graduated from an accredited (by CAPTE) Doctorate in Physical Therapy. It's 7 years including the undergraduate degree, and while residencies following the degrees are not required, they are highly recommended.
"What is The Movement System?"
The Movement System is a term used to represent a collection of systems that must interact to the move the body or it's component parts.
It is a method of approach adapted by the APTA within the last 5 years to allow physical therapists to encompass aspects of 7 different bodily systems that come together to form a comprehensive physical therapy diagnosis. It includes the musculoskeletal, nervous, pulmonary, cardiovascular, endocrine, and integumentary systems.
Human movement is a complex behavior within a specific context. Physical Therapists provide a unique perspective on purposeful, precise, and efficient movement across the lifespan based upon the synthesis of their distinctive knowledge of the movement system and expertise in mobility and locomotion.
NOTE: A physical therapy diagnosis is NOT the same as the medical diagnosis given to you by your physician.
"What can we do if we want physical therapy?"
In the state of Kansas, you can come in for physical therapy without a referral. The problem isn't always the state - it may be your insurance. Make sure to contact your insurance for details regarding your coverage and benefits.
In the state of Missouri, you may be evaluated by a physical therapist without a prescription under 2 conditions:
1. Treatment for a condition that has already been diagnosed by a physician within the last 12 months, and the physical therapist must still send out for a prescription upon determination to continue from the evaluation with treatment, or
2. A consultation, education, or preventative program for asymptomatic individuals.
Again, it is crucial that while the state may allow that you see a physical therapist without a prescription under certain conditions, it is imperative that you first, contact your insurance to verify that you are eligible for coverage without a prescription - no matter the reason.
"What do we do if our insurance doesn't cover physical therapy?"
Just about every insurance plan available now includes physical therapy coverage. However, in certain situations, your plan may not have great coverage, or still may require a hefty out-of-pocket maximum or deductible to be met. We at CHAMPION Performance and Physical Therapy have what's called a self-pay option, where you pay entirely out of pocket for your appointment (the same way you'd pay for your lunch) if you're unable to utilize your insurance benefits, or simply do not want to. You'd pay each and every time before the start of your appointment, and we would not contact your insurance for reimbursement.