When people have back or neck pain, they often think of going to a chiropractor, or massage therapist, or even an acupuncturist because it is the “same back pain” or their “back went out again.” Most people do not go to a physical therapist because they need to be referred by their doctor, which requires scheduling a doctor’s visit.
But Texans can now visit a physical therapist for treatment without a physician’s referral. Texas became the 49th state to allow patients direct access to physical therapists when House Bill 29 took effect last month.
What does this mean for patients? This means they can take a more proactive approach to treat pain, especially chronic pain.
The benefits of seeing a physical therapist for pain management are many: physical therapists are Doctors of Physical Therapy and are trained specifically in the evaluation and effective treatment of most types of joint pain. Physical therapists are trained in specific exercise protocols designed not just to treat but also to prevent future injuries. They can have many different specializations with techniques to treat all types of pain.
Most insurances do not require a referral to see a physical therapist. However some do, especially HMOs.
The law states that after an evaluation, a patient may be seen for 10 consecutive business days by a Doctor of Physical Therapy who has been practicing for a year. Or they may be seen for 15 consecutive days by someone who is fellowship or residency trained.
To continue treatment after that, a referral from a doctor is necessary. Even with these restrictions, physical therapists believe this is a huge step in the right direction, especially in battling the opioid crisis.
There are several studies, information from professional organizations like the American Physical Therapy Association and case studies that show the benefits of seeing a physical therapist first – benefits like overall decreased cost and better outcomes.
Try it, and see for yourself!