Your Health, Your Choice: Picking the Perfect Physical Therapist

UntitledHealthcare has undergone a series of reforms since the New Year, but the freedom of consumer choice remains an area relatively untouched in ongoing debates.

While it is standard for physicians to provide patients with professional referrals, in most cases, patients are not limited to those recommendations and can choose their own providers – including physical therapists.

There are currently 46 states, including Georgia, that allow you to go directly to a physical therapist without a physician’s referral.

But having the freedom to choose your own physical therapist can be a daunting task.

There are a number of questions to ask and factors to consider when selecting your physical therapist, and with high co-pays, you don’t want to waste time or money on a physical therapist that just isn’t working for you.

Take these several factors into account when searching for the right physical therapist to treat your condition.

Experience

First and foremost, research the background of any potential physical therapist.

Currently, all new physical therapy graduates must earn a minimum of a master’s degree and, according to the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), most licensed and working physical therapists will have a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree by 2020.

And while education can speak volumes about a physician’s knowledge, experience is equally important in choosing your physical therapist. Be sure to ask how many years of experience the therapist has, and use that information to make your decision.

Remember, one isn’t always better than the other, and ideally you would like to find a physical therapist with a good balance of the two.

Also, make sure you are always receiving treatment from a licensed physical therapist.

Physical therapists are licensed by the state in which they practice, and knowing your physical therapist is licensed can ease doubts you may have about the potential effectiveness of your treatment.

If you are receiving care from a physical therapist assistant, be sure they are supervised by a licensed physical therapist.

Specialization

Every diagnosis is different, as is treatment, and it is important to keep this in mind when choosing your physical therapist.

A majority of physical therapists graduate as generalists and go on to earn specialization certifications that allow them to develop skills in specific areas of practice.

Many physical therapists specialize in treating body parts – such as hands, shoulders and knees – while others may focus on treatment that is unique to sports injuries, stroke rehabilitation or pre- and postnatal care.

According to the APTA, physical therapists can also be certified in eight specialist areas: orthopedics, sports, geriatrics, pediatrics, cardiopulmonary, neurology, women’s health, and clinical electrophysiology.

By better understanding different areas of specialization, you can help narrow your choices.

Remember, physical therapy will also involve an evaluation of your current problem, as well as medical issues that existed before treatment to help determine the best approach. Therefore, discuss any concerns up front to ensure your physical therapist carries skill sets you need.

Services

Physical therapy visits are not a one-time appointment. In many cases, patients are required to visit their physical therapists several times a month, if not a week, to receive treatment.

Make sure you are seeing the same physical therapist for every visit to establish a relationship with a single person who knows your case and plan of care.

Also ensure your clinic accepts your insurance plan. Some policies may require copayments for services, so have your physical therapist’s clinic help you estimate total costs.

When looking into physical therapy, it is important to remember that you are in control of your health and your choice. So take the time to find the best match for your needs.

For more information on locating a physical therapist near you, be sure to take advantage of the APTAs simple and comprehensive search engine, “Find a PT” at http://www.apta.org.

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