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Ask Your Physical Therapist: Can I see a physical therapist without seeing my doctor?
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Ask Your Physical Therapist: Can I see a physical therapist without seeing my doctor?

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Many people have asked me if they can see a physical therapist without seeing their doctor. It’s a great question, and the answer is yes.

Most insurances will allow you to see a physical therapist without seeing a doctor first; the only exception is Medicare and a few other obscure insurances that required you to see a doctor first to get a script—orders from a doctor saying you can see a physical therapist.

There are many benefits to being able to see a Physical Therapist as a first line of defense. Here are some of the benefits:


If you have pain or weakness that is keeping you from the things you need, want and love to do, you want to be able to get back to living your life the way you want as soon as possible.

For example, you develop knee pain that is keeping you from walking the stairs normally, walking without a limp or keeping up with your friends and family. You can just call your physical therapist and schedule right away.

At Cardin and Miller Physical Therapy, we try to get our patients in to see us within 24 to 48 hours of receiving their call. If you go to see your family doctor or a specialist, you may wait weeks or months for an appointment.

So physical therapy can get you in to be seen much sooner, which means that you get back to normal sooner!

Avoids pills, shots and surgery

Many times when you go to see your doctor or a specialist, they prescribe pills, give you a shot, recommend surgery or tell you to just rest and the pain will go away. Unfortunately, pills and shots are not addressing the reason why you are having the pain/issues you are having; they are only treating the symptoms.

Surgery can be an option, but too often it is used as a first resort rather than a last – no one wants to go through the cost, pain and hassle of surgery unless they have to.

Rest, can be helpful temporarily, but again, it is not treating the reason why the problem is occurring in the first place.

Physical therapy addresses the reason why the pain/issues are there in the first place and resolves them, which ensure that your problem goes and stays away.


Seeing a physical therapist first saves money. Research shows that the sooner that you address and resolve the cause of the pain/issues, the sooner it goes away. So, if your physical therapist can get you in the quickest, you will spend less money.

In addition, if you see your doctor or a specialist first, you pay to see them several times, then possibly pay for medications and shots and eventually surgery, which all are expensive.

And guess what? You’ll need physical therapy rehab after surgery, and if you take pills or have shots, after they stop working, you end up in physical therapy.

You can see how doing physical therapy first would have helped you save time, money and avoid pills, shots and surgery.

Please don’t misunderstand me, there are times when surgery is needed. When a patient comes to see us at Cardin and Miller Physical Therapy first, if we see a reason why they should see their doctor or specialist first, that’s where we send them. We also send a copy of our evaluation to each patient’s doctor or specialist, even if they come to see us first, so everyone is kept in the loop.

For more information on how to see your physical therapist first and get back to doing the things you need, want and love to do, visit our website at, which is where you will find information about knee, back, foot, neck, shoulder pain and more.

Steve Miller is the owner of Cardin and Miller Physical Therapy, which specializes in helping people ages 35 to 70-plus. His column will appear bi-monthly in the Thrive section of the Sentinel and on


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