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Your Physical Therapist as a Primary Care Provider

Updated: May 10, 2022

I’ve been a Physical Therapist now for over 13 years, and I have my fair share of lifelong patients, those who aren’t seeing me weekly forever so to speak, but who call me up once or twice a year, or once every two years, whenever they are having a new or different body ache, pain, or injury. They aren’t sure what it is, whether or not they should be concerned, and they want a trusted opinion. Sometimes we talk it out on the phone, but lots of times they come into the clinic to be evaluated. These patients also 9 times out of 10 skip their Primary Care Physician for their orthopedic complaints and come straight to me.

Am I special? NO! Physical Therapy is taking on more and more of a Primary Care role in the medical field, especially with recent healthcare trends such as longer times to get into the Physician (often months while waiting to get into an Orthopedic Specialist or Pain Management Physician), rushed Specialist visits (in and out in 5 minutes without any clear answers or solutions, anyone?), and the oftentimes quick triaging into invasive shots and procedures by Orthopedics and Spine Specialists. Not to mention, many Primary Care Providers have to know so much about so many areas of diagnosis and treatment, most are not highly specialized in evaluating and treating Orthopedic and other mobility-related conditions. Also, with the addition of the Doctorate-level training programs that started about 15 years ago in Physical Therapy, most Physical Therapists are Doctors, themselves.

So, what does that mean for you? If you are experiencing a new ache or pain, have had a recent injury, or aren’t sure why your shoulder or knee (or back, or ankle, or neck, etc.) aren’t moving the way it used to, you should seriously consider reaching out to your Physical Therapist. Even if you don’t go in for a visit, you can get some quick advice and information over the phone. Sometimes, we’ll tell you to come into the clinic straight away. And sometimes, based on a series of questions and answers, we may determine that you should first see your PCP or Orthopedist for testing or ruling out other, more serious conditions.

In the future, if you experience a new physical complaint, reach out to your Physical Therapist! New York is a Direct Access State, which means that in most cases, you can refer yourself directly to a PT without a Physician’s referral. Most PT offices are willing and able to check your medical benefits for you, so if you ever have a question of coverage or need for an MD referral or script, you should reach out to the office as well.

So from now on, you should consider your PT not only your partner to get you through any current or recent injury or issue, but you should keep them in front of mind for any future problems that come up. Even if you saw them for a back problem, you can rest assured they can help you with your new foot pain. If you saw them for your neck, they’ll be able to help you with a future elbow or hip pain. And if you just saw them for your knee surgery rehab and you have a sudden onset of sciatica, well, you get the idea 😉

If you ever have any questions for us or would like to easily schedule a free phone or in-person consultation, feel free to do so here

In good health,

Dr. Ashley Bertorelli, PT and Founder/Owner of The Green Room Physical Therapy

Ph: 518-326-3771

Clifton Park & Troy

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