What is Direct Access? Over the last few months I have had multiple patients ask me if they could come see me directly without first needing to be seen by a physician. While the idea of direct accesses is relatively new, especially in the state of New Jersey (last 10 years), it has become a hot topic of discussion in PT schools, other healthcare professionals and now among you. So what is Direct Access? Direct Access in physical therapy means that you can go directly to a PT for evaluation and treatment of pain and other movement related issues.* Yes, by New Jersey State law you may visit a licensed physical therapist without supervision, orders, or prescriptions from other health care providers. So what’s in it for you? Why deviate from the traditional model where you are referred to physical therapy by a physician or other specialist?
- Saves Money: Three things are certain in this world: death, taxes, and rising (insurance) co-pays and deductibles. In most instances of musculoskeletal pain, you’ll leave a physician’s office with a prescription for pain relieving drugs and a script for physical therapy. Going through a trial of PT first saves you some time and co-pays.
- Systems review: Physicians perform a systems review to identify “red flag” situations that warrant immediate attention. Doctors of Physical therapy are also trained and qualified to do the same and are specifically taught how to find the root of movement related problems. Treating mechanical (movement related) problems requires mechanical solutions, and most physicians don’t have the time or training to get into the foundational movement impairments.
- Time: Rest is good, up to a point. If medicine and a few days of rest are not helping your condition, the last thing you need is more medication with more rest. Rest does not identify and address the factors that cause pain or poor movement. Seeing a PT sooner than later may substantially impact the extent to which you reach full recovery. For example, physical therapists attempt to address that painful disc herniation or lateral ankle sprain before the mind and body begin to compensate and ingrain dysfunctional movement. (Look for my next blog on pain and how it impacts the brain in a few months!)
- Independence: A vast body of evidence from virtually every medical discipline shows that chronic pain is a major dilemma. The more someone adapts a fear avoidance mindset and depends on health care providers, the poorer the outcome. PT is a conservative, patient empowering, proactive means of addressing the root of movement related problems.