When should I see a physical therapist?

When should I see a physical therapist?

Physical therapists, or PTs, are musculoskeletal specialists, trained to treat many problems ranging from aches and pains to rehabilitation after surgery. Alison Mason, a physical therapist at Clinton Physical Therapy Center (a Physiquality network member in Tennessee), explains, “Physical therapists are experts at finding muscular dysfunctions and working with you to correct them by rebuilding strength and stability.”

Physical therapists examine each individual and develop a plan to improve mobility, reduce pain, restore function, and prevent disability, says Mitch Kaye, a physical therapist and Director of Quality Assurance at PTPN (Physiquality’s parent company). Because of this expertise, Mitch notes, “They are also uniquely qualified to develop fitness and wellness plans for a healthier and more active lifestyle.”

PTs treat a variety of conditions, but here are some of their more common cases:

  • Ankle sprain
    A PT can help you regain your strength and improve your balance in order to return to your daily routine.

  • Carpal tunnel syndromeCarpal tunnel syndrome
    Not all cases require surgery! In some milder cases, working with a physical therapist to reduce strain on your wrist and build strength in the wrist and lower arm can be enough.

  • Fall prevention
    As we age, our balance and strength start to fade, increasing our chances of falling down and sustaining serious injury. A PT can create a strengthening program to reduce such accidents.

  • Illiotibial (IT) band syndrome and hip bursitis
    Many active athletes can get inflammation at the hip and/or IT band, the fascia that runs the length of your leg from the outer hip to the top of the knee. Physical therapists have a variety of treatments to reduce such tightness and inflammation.

  • Knee pain and arthritis
    After a thorough evaluation to determine the cause of such pain, a PT can develop a treatment plan to improve strength and reduce pain.

  • Low back pain
    A physical therapist will not only help to strengthen your back, but also evaluate your daily activities and posture in order to reduce strain on your back.

  • Plantar fasciitisPlantar fasciitis
    Common in athletes, as well as people who are on their feet all day, the condition is caused by inflammation of the tissues in the arch of the foot. A PT can work with you on both short-term pain relief and long-term strengthening and stretching to avoid the issue in the future.

  • Tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow
    Athletes that play sports with a swinging motion, like golf or especially tennis, often can develop such overuse injuries as tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis. After a thorough evaluation, your physical therapist can develop a plan to strengthen the related muscles and to determine whether the swing should be changed to avoid further injury.

So how do you go about seeing a physical therapist? Alison points out that in some states, you can see a licensed physical therapist without a doctor’s referral, known in healthcare circles as direct access to PT. That said, direct access doesn’t necessarily mean your insurance will pay. She notes that most insurance companies that cover rehabilitative services when recommended by a physician will cover direct access physical therapy, but you should always call and find out your benefits. Alison advises, “This allows for you to be an educated and active participant in your healthcare as well.”

To learn more about direct access to physical therapists, you can read through the American Physical Therapy Association’s information on direct access to physical therapy services.

Looking for a physical therapist in your area? Use our search tool to find a Physiquality location near you.

Mitch Kaye, PT, oversees all aspects of clinical review and quality oversight for PTPN, Physiquality’s parent company. Mitch also assists PTPN regional offices with quality assurance program management through ongoing training and support, and he meets with members, physicians and payers as needed for program development and problem resolution.

Alison Mason, PT, DPT, is a physical therapist at Clinton Physical Therapy Center, a Physiquality network member in Clinton, Tennessee. She earned her Doctorate of Physical Therapy from the University of Maryland in 2009.


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For further information:

Direct access to physical therapy services: Overview. American Physical Therapy Association, May 11, 2012.

Symptoms and conditions. American Physical Therapy Association, February 28, 2011.



The material and information contained on this Web site is for information only and is not intended to serve as medical advice or consultation.

Consult your personal physician before beginning any exercise program or self-treatment.