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May 30, 2013

May 30, 2013: Letters to the editor

July 1: Direct access to physical therapy

On April 29, Gov. Mike Pence signed a bill allowing individuals direct access to physical therapy without a referral from a physician. Indiana is the last state in the U.S. to adopt this type of law regarding access to physical therapy. This law goes into effect July 1 and is assumed to decrease health care costs for both the state and individuals.

Thanks to the new law, people will no longer be required to spend money on a visit to their family physician to receive a referral to physical therapy. If a person needs the services of a physical therapist, he or she simply schedules an appointment with a nearby outpatient physical therapy clinic — no physician’s referral needed. Although physical therapists will be allowed to treat patients without referral from a physician, the law still requires a physician’s referral for the use of sharp tools (scalpels or scissors) for wound care and for the use of spinal manipulation.

Physical therapy can improve mobility and motion, help people avoid surgery, and eliminate pain. According to the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), physical therapists can help improve mobility and motion by reducing the risk of injury, improving balance, preventing falls, helping persons recover from stroke, and address the loss of movement associated with diabetes. Additionally, physical therapists can aid people in avoiding invasive, painful surgery. Research by Alexandria Kirkley, M.D., and colleagues, published in The New England Journal of Medicine in 2008, found that physical therapy, in addition to comprehensive medical management, is equally as effective at reliving pain and stiffness in the knee of someone with moderate to severe osteoarthritis compared to surgery.

When it comes to pain, physical therapy is a great alternative to costly medication or invasive methods for pain relief. Physical therapists now receive doctoral education to enter the profession and, according to the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE), by 2015 all physical therapists graduating from an accredited physical therapy program will receive a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree (DPT). Education includes treatment of people with musculoskeletal conditions such as back pain, neck pain, overuse injuries, tennis elbow, osteoarthritis and other conditions that cause pain or a decrease in range of joint motion or functional ability. Since many of these conditions can be confused with one another or with a more serious diagnosis (like referred pain from kidney dysfunction), physical therapists are extensively trained in diagnosing each individual’s condition appropriately. Therapists are trained to refer accordingly if they decide that a patient has a diagnosis that is more appropriate for a different health professional. Likewise, physical therapists are also educated in the treatment of individuals with neurological conditions such as vertigo, decreased balance, multiple sclerosis, stroke, spinal cord injury, and a variety of other disorders that cause problems with performing daily activities.

Visit MoveForwardPT.com for more research and information about physical therapy and its benefits or to find a licensed physical therapist near you.

Kenneth Taylor

Indianapolis

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