Do I need a prescription for physical therapy?

On February 13, 2003 NJ passed the Direct Access Law (N.J.S.A. 45:9-37.13). "Direct Access" means you have the freedom to seek physical therapy treatment without the prescription or referral of a physician.

Let's say you were raking leaves for several hours last Saturday and now have pain in your right shoulder. Typically you might schedule an appointment with your family doctor, who would then refer you to an orthopedist, who would then prescribe physical therapy.

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With Direct Access, you can skip all of that and gain the following benefits by starting the recovery process with your physical therapist:

1) Save your precious time: Who wants to juggle scheduling and wait weeks for various appointments only to spend hours in waiting rooms? Eliminating unnecessary physician visits will save valuable time, and early intervention with your PT will result in a quicker recovery.

2) Save your precious money: Each visit to the doctor usually requires a copay, coinsurance, or payment of a deductible. Savings can be realized on the front end with fewer doctor's appointments and then again on the back end with fewer PT visits.

3) Get out of pain and recover quickly: Expedited treatment provides immediate relief and often shortens overall recovery time so you can return to daily tasks, work demands and athletic activities.

4) Receive expert healthcare: Physical therapists receive extensive education (many at the doctoral level) and clinical training in the evaluation, diagnosis, prognosis, and intervention of patients with functional limitations, impairments and disabilities. They are also committed to collaborating with your primary care physician, orthopedist and others specialists to deliver the best health care for your medical needs.

5) Research supports the benefits: A recent study, in the journal Health Services Research (HSR), reviewed 62,707 episodes of physical therapy. They found that patients who visited a physical therapist directly for outpatient care (27%) had fewer visits and lower overall costs on average than those who were referred by a physician.