Oh, your aching back! Do you consider physical therapy first or do you schedule an appointment with your doctor? Chances are your doctor will only refer you to physical therapy, so why not cut to the chase and be proactive with your health care by opting for physical therapy first.

You know what’s wrong with your body; you’ve been through this before. So what do you dread more than the pain? It’s getting in to see the doctor!

  • You prefer sooner, but the first opening is later.
  • Then there’s scheduling tests—another delay—to tell you what you already know.
  • Finally, a couple of months later, you’re allowed to see the physical therapist and get some relief!

There has to be a better way! Jumping through all the hoops wastes both time and money. Doesn’t seeking physical therapy first make more sense?

In previous blogs we have stressed the importance of being able to choose your own physical therapist. We’ve stressed how important it is for your insurance to cover physical therapy without needing a referral first. We’ve also pointed out that the Patient’s Bill of Rights encourages you to be proactive with your health care.

It’s time that you consider physical therapy first.

When Time Is of the Essence

Our mantra is, “physical therapy first,” because pain doesn’t wait for an opening in the doctor’s schedule. Your back hurts now. You need immediate relief. You are not thinking, “Why don’t I wait a few weeks to see if the pain goes away?”

At Midland Physical Therapy, when our patients in pain call us, their question invariably is, “How soon can you get me in?” And the urgency in their voices tells us, “I hope it’s today!” Our goal is always to get you in as promptly as possible. You shouldn’t have to live with pain.

Most patients who come to us can’t and shouldn’t wait for treatment. They desperately need physical therapy first. Just because pain is invisible to the eye doesn’t mean it isn’t very real and debilitating.

You aren’t suffering from the minor aches and pains that can be resolved with home remedies in a couple of days. When you have an ailment, such as vertigo or low back pain, a delay in treatment can lead to a worsening condition. As a consequence, your condition will be more costly and difficult to treat.

Cut Down on Time, Without Cutting Corners

You like your doctor, but right now you need to see your physical therapist. We like your doctor, too; however, what we do for you is different from what your doctor does for you. Neither of us is trying to cut the doctor out of the picture.

When you’ve already been diagnosed, and you’re experiencing a recurrence of a condition, you don’t need your doctor to re-diagnose you. You simply need physical therapy. You aren’t trying to cut corners on your health; you’re being proactive with your health care.

Skipping an unnecessary office visit saves you time. It’s also a benefit to your doctor and the patient who needs the appointment slot you didn’t end up taking. Going directly to physical therapy first benefits you by getting you the treatment you need more quickly.

However, our therapists are trained in differential diagnosis as well. In other words, if your symptoms are not “adding up” to a musculoskeletal problem, we recognize that and will facilitate getting you back into your doctor ASAP for further testing. For instance, people with gall bladder problems often experience upper back pain; shingles initially could be thought of as a back pain, but we wouldn’t find a source of that; calf pain could be a DVT, not a calf problem, and we would send people to the ER right away in such an instance.

In short, we know when problems are outside of our scope of practice and will advise you on what your medical options are.

Timely Treatment is Effective Treatment

The most important reason to consider physical therapy first is that the more quickly you receive the appropriate treatment, the sooner you can get back to normal. Research and case studies document this connection convincingly.

Stenosis is one condition that responds well to physical therapy first. Physical therapy has been shown to be as effective as surgery in alleviating pain. Early intervention is the key to more effective pain management. Controlling pain through physical therapy can mean less reliance on opioid medications to control pain.

Likewise, other conditions, such as degenerative disk disease, are treated as effectively or even more effectively with physical therapy than with surgery. Physical therapy also has fewer risks. That’s all the more reason to seek physical therapy first.

Delayed treatment, on the other hand, can have serious health consequences. The longer lower back pain goes untreated, the more likely you will need medications, injections, or surgery to treat the pain. Physical therapy is more effective when treatment is started as soon as possible.

Cut Costs, Without Cutting Corners

Once your condition has been diagnosed, a trip to the doctor shouldn’t be necessary for every recurrence of that condition. Not only does a doctor’s visit delay treatment and prolong your pain, it costs more!

For every trip to the doctor’s office, your insurance pays for that visit – you may even be required to pay out-of-pocket to cover your co-payment. Now consider that, according to the National Institutes of Health, eight out of ten people in the U.S. will experience back pain at some point in their lives. You have a lot of company!

What’s the cost of all those people all making an unnecessary office visit? It’s estimated that with back pain accounting for 10 percent of primary care physician visits, it all adds up to $86 billion in health care spending annually! It’s possible to cut that cost without cutting the healthcare benefits people like you need.

In fact, one published study claims that when it comes to severe back pain, costs can be reduced by as much 60 percent when the patient chooses physical therapy first. Why? Because physical therapists take a path to wellness based on movement, exercise, and manual therapy.

This path relies on the body’s ability to heal or restore itself rather than relying on expensive technological diagnostic tools, such as MRIs. A trained physical therapist’s hands can restore motion and reduce pain, delaying or preventing treatments that rely on surgery or pricey prescriptions.

Sadly, we are only beginning to count the true cost of the opioid crisis. The costs go well beyond the cost of the prescription drugs themselves. By seeking physical therapy first, you may well be saving yourself from the devastating costs of addiction and its destructive impact on families.

We Have Your back!

Sometimes it can feel like the health care system is stacked against you. You understand that rules and regulations are intended to protect you. It’s frustrating when those same rules and regulations get in the way of prompt, effective care. Putting physical therapy first means putting you, the patient, first!

Be assured that Midland Physical Therapy wants to put you first.

If you are unsure whether you need a referral or if your health insurance will cover treatment, we can help you. Navigating the requirements of your insurance policy and your primary healthcare provider can be complicated. We’ll work with your insurance provider and primary care physician to ensure you can get the care you need when you need it most.

Whether you are seeking additional information or have questions you need answered, contact Midland Physical Therapy today. We’ll help you assess whether “physical therapy first” is the right motto for you to live by.

Hello, physical therapy first! Goodbye, aching back!






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