So let's say your wife decided the living room needed to be rearranged and that it absolutely had to be done immediately. Never being one to miss out on a chance to impress your lady with your feats of strength, you decided you could move the couch all by yourself, forgetting it's a sleeper sofa and it weighs 1400 pounds. Or maybe let's say you having been asking your deadbeat husband for weeks to help you rearrange the living room and he keeps promising to help do it tomorrow. You know what? You don't need him. You can do it yourself. Again, you forgot that the couch weighs 10 times as much as you. Neither one of these scenarios work out well for your back. Now, instead of enjoying that feeling of accomplishment and admiring your "new" living room, you are curled up in the fetal postion on the floor praying for God to take you now. So what do you do next? One of the hardest decisions for patients sometimes is whom exactly they need to go see after an injury.
Do I go to the ER? Maybe.
Do I see my family practice doctor first? Maybe.
Do I go straight to a neurosurgeon or orthopedist? Good luck getting an appointment in the next two weeks.
Do I go see if my neighbor has some muscle relaxers I can borrow? Dude, that's a felony.
What about my Physical Therapist? Well, glad you asked.
Here's the best way I can answer that question- if you are absolutely crippled with pain and cannot move. If it's like 9 out of 10 pain and it won't go away, go to the ER. If there is a bone poking through the skin or something swells up like a beach ball, go to the ER. If it's a step below that and you're very uncomfortable and it is not getting better. If it's constantly shooting down your leg or your arm and won't let up, go see your MD. Other than those cases, the fastest way to get you better is to go straight to PT. Here's why... first, we are the quickest course of action. Rather than wait a day or two to see a physician, then wait a couple days on X-ray results, we can usually give you a two or three day head start. When you're in pain, a few days is a lot. Most of the time, X-rays aren't that useful or even necessary anyway. The most common course of treatment with back pain, even if it's radiating down an extremity, it to try a month or so of physical therapy along with anti-inflammatory medication. If that doesn't get better, then it's further imaging like an MRI and you go from there.
Look, if your PT thinks you need to go straight to a doctor after we evaluate you, we'll make that referral. We are all shameless marketers and we love any excuse to talk to your doctor. It makes us look good and gives us access to your physician that we don't normally get. We're not going to string you along for weeks if PT isn't the right course for you. Last but certainly not least, we're cheaper. Who doesn't love to save money, right? A recent study found that going straight to a PT rather than getting an MRI first saved patients an average of over $4700. Yep, PT is nearly 5 grand cheaper. You can buy a really nice new couch with the money you saved... and pay for someone else to move it.
For the last several years, the American Physical Therapy Association has worked tirelessly trying to get you Direct Access to Physical Therapy. The great news is they have had a lot of success in the fight with most states. If you are lucky enough to live in Kentucky, you have full Direct Access. That means you're not required by law to have a physician's referral to see a PT. That being said, insurance companies rule the healthcare world and a small few still require a physician's referral to pay for your PT. Finding out whether your insurance company requires a referral isn't super hard. I would recommend calling your PT office first and having them check your benefits. If they really want your business, they'll do it for you. If you're a real go-getter or you just don't trust people, you can check yourself by calling the Member Services number on the back of your card. This takes about fifteen minutes and sends you on an exciting journey through an automated world filled with robots and elevator music. It's kind of like the Labyrinth movie, but instead of David Bowie songs you get violin covers of "Wrecking Ball" by Miley Cyrus. At the end, this nice lady apologizes for the long wait and gives you all the info you need.
So, there you have it. That's what you need to know about Direct Access. Hopefully for you, you never need this info and you can remain injury free. But, in the event that you do need some PT, this info should help save you some time and money. If you have any questions about your insurance and Direct Access, we're always available at (859) 654-0119.