In the state of California, patients are able to see a physical therapist for 12 sessions or 45 days, whichever comes first. Being able to see a physical therapist directly will allow you to start your recovery much faster. In the healthcare system, patients sometimes have to wait days or weeks until they can see their physician.
In this time period, these patients could have already been examined have treated by a PT, decreasing potential progression of their problem. Although physical therapists are restricted in making medical diagnoses, they are able to perform a physical examination and determine if they are able to treat you within the scope of practice of a physical therapist. If needed, your PT will refer you to the appropriate healthcare practitioner.In a recent study, researchers analyzed claims and outcomes data for 447 patients receiving physical therapy for back or neck pain, either via direct access or from a medical referral. Both groups received the same guideline-based care using the same outcome measures. Improvement was similar in both groups, but those patients who saw PTs via direct access incurred $1,543 lower average costs than those who were referred by a physician.See article abstract here:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29073842
Some insurance companies still require you to obtain a referral in order to receive physical therapy, but you can contact your PT provider and have them perform an insurance verification to let you know if you need one. In any case, being able to see physical therapist directly will allow you to be evaluated sooner, decrease your recovery period, and potentially decrease healthcare costs.