Your Direct Access To Physical Therapy


We are built to move. When a medical condition, chronic pain or an injury prevents that from happening, it can be devastating.

That’s where physical therapy comes in, Michael Satterley of Tidewater Physical Therapy told MD TV recently.

“We’re the movement specialists of the healthcare field,” Satterley said.

Physical therapy can be ordered by physicians with a prescription and accessed directly by patients making their own appointments.

“You do not necessarily need to see a doctor before coming to PT,” Satterley emphasized. “This is called direct access,” and based on the patient’s insurance, he or she can come in for an evaluation.

Based on that evaluation, a therapist can decide whether continuing physical therapy is warranted, if the patient should go to another healthcare provider or do a home care program on their own.

Most often, patients think of physical therapy when recovering from surgery or a sports injury.

Satterley added that physical therapists treat a wide variety of conditions in a wide variety of settings, ranging from arthritis to back pain to burns, COPD, developmental delay, headaches, incontinence, sports injury, stroke, traumatic brain injury, osteoporosis…and the list goes on.

In short, physical therapy, with its prescribed exercises and manual therapy, aims to restore or increase joint range of motion, maintain and increase muscle strength and accelerate healing of a medical condition. It can also prevent deformity and improve movement disorders that are often accompanied by pain.

For anyone feeling pain or not moving as effectively as they once did, Satterley advised patients not to wait to receive physical therapy. The longer the wait, the tougher it is to regain full mobility.

That’s where the direct access, or making your own appointment, comes in handy.

Satterley said more and more insurance providers are covering direct access, and encouraged patients to call their local therapy office, tell the receptionist which type of insurance coverage they have and the office will let the patient know whether or not he or she can come in under direct access.

“We all know that in healthcare now, medical costs are rising,” Satterley added. “So if you pretty much know that you need physical therapy, or even if you’re not sure, coming to a physical therapist first could potentially eliminate a few steps in the healthcare process.”

Satterley said physical therapists remains in constant contact with patient physicians throughout the treatment process.