By Dr. Tracy Urvater, PT, DPT, OCS

October is National Physical Therapy Month—a month where physical therapists make an extra concerted effort to educate their patients on the benefits of physical therapy as an alternative to expensive medical interventions, which can improve quality of life. We certainly don’t wait until October to get this message across to the general public or other healthcare professionals who may not be familiar with the qualifications of a physical therapist. It’s a daily occurrence where we spend time explaining various conditions that a patient presents with and how best to treat this condition conservatively.

As doctors of physical therapy, we have the clinical training and expertise to accurately diagnose musculoskeletal conditions, identify red flags that may require referral to a physician or other healthcare professional, and provide treatment for these conditions without the need for expensive imaging, medications, injections, and/or surgery.

The danger of opioids

The most recent endeavor within the medical community is the reduction of opioid (narcotic) medication usage. The many side effects of these medications, including addiction, are of prime concern. For many years, physicians and other healthcare providers who are eligible to prescribe these medications have freely dispensed them in an effort to help patients reduce pain postoperatively, as well as with chronic pain conditions.

It is now widely known that these medications not only have vast side effects but also may be used in ways they are not intended to be. Do you have leftover narcotic medication stored away? Commonly, individuals either mistakenly take these leftover medications in place of another, or the narcotics get into the hands of others when they were not prescribed for them. This may lead to harmful effects including overdose.

Safer alternatives to reducing pain

There are alternate ways of reducing pain without the use of opioids. Research articles have clearly indicated that physical therapy is a safe, conservative method for reducing pain by using interventions that address the underlying cause of pain. In most cases, combining pain relieving modalities, manual (hands-on) therapy, and appropriately prescribed supervised exercise are equally, if not more, effective in reducing pain and improving function and overall quality of life.

Find the right physical therapist for you

Choosing a physical therapist can—and should—be researched. As one should know, not every practitioner is the same. Quality of care varies among all healthcare providers, and the choice is yours. Their experience, credentials, and method of intervention should be investigated. People most often take the time to research a physician or surgeon when medical procedures are warranted and, many times, will not succumb to the constraints put on them by their insurance company’s in-network benefits. They want the best care, and nothing else matters.

Yet the belief remains: “Physical therapy is physical therapy anywhere.” This is certainly not true.

Choosing a doctor of physical therapy who will provide that same quality intervention as the physician or surgeon you chose is crucial to your outcome. Allowing an insurance company to make these decisions for you is a disservice. Perhaps, if required, paying slightly more for that perfect PT practitioner, who will get you back on track, is worth the financial commitment. Don’t let your insurance company be the one to determine your fate—most of the time, they are looking to cut costs at the expense of your wellbeing.

Additionally, the choice of PT also becomes yours despite the recommendation or referral provided by your physician, friend, or family member. Although recommendations may be helpful in your decision-making process, take the time to research that recommendation thoroughly. Call the office and speak with the receptionist (or PT directly if available), and visit the office to determine if the environment fits your needs. In most cases, you no longer need a prescription from a physician for physical therapy services.

Choose wisely… #ChoosePT

Let your doctor of PT be your first line of defense against your painful condition—and GET RID OF YOUR NARCOTIC MEDICATION! Nothing is more important than your health and wellbeing…choose wisely. #ChoosePT.