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3 Reasons You Need to See Your Physical Therapist Vs. Your Primary Care Physician

3 Reasons You Need to See Your Physical Therapist Vs. Your Primary Care Physician

  1. Save Time

Going directly to be evaluated and treated by a physical therapist for an injury, ache or pain can save you time when treating your pain or injury compared to going to your primary care physician first. In many instances, primary care physicians (PCPs) may refer directly to physical therapy for injuries involving the musculoskeletal system including any sprains, strains, aches or pains especially if the person has not yet tried physical therapy. By going directly to a physical therapist, a person can “cut out the middle man” and save time which includes the time it takes to schedule and get into a PCP, get the referral and then get into physical therapy. In addition, persons that utilized direct access to physical therapy had about 1 less visit per episode of care and 10 less days in treatment per episode of care than those who went to their PCP first.

2. Save Money

Persons who went directly to see a physical therapist incurred significantly less medical costs than those who first went to their primary care physician. One study showed they saved an average of $1,543 less per patient according to the . Another study found that those who went directly to physical therapy spent $260 less for physical therapy, $169 less for radiology and $53 less in other costs such as those associated with medications and injections.

3. Accuracy of diagnosis and prognosis

Physical therapists are experts in musculoskeletal conditions. One study that examined the knowledge of various healthcare professionals in regards to managing musculoskeletal conditions found that physical therapists had higher knowledge in managing musculoskeletal conditions than medical students, physician interns and residents, and all physician specialists except for orthopaedists. In addition, physical therapy students enrolled in a doctoral degree achieved significantly higher scores than their peers in master’s degrees programs and those who were board-certified in orthopaedic or sports physical therapy achieved significantly higher scores and passing rates than their non board-certified colleagues.


A description of physical therapists’ knowledge in managing musculoskeletal conditions. Childs JD, Whitman JM, Sizer PS, Pugia ML, Flynn TW, Delitto A. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders. 2005. 6:32.


The Influence of Patient Choice of First Provider on Costs and Outcomes: Analysis From a Physical Therapy Patient Registry.

Denninger TR, Cook CE, Chapman CG, McHenry T, Thigpen CA.

J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2018 Feb;48(2):63-71. doi: 10.2519/jospt.2018.7423. Epub 2017 Oct 26.