Man Walking With the Help of a Physical Therapist in Alexandria, VAAfter suffering soft-tissue injuries, some patients may wait a month or more to get an appointment with their primary care physicians. They have no choice but to “take it easy” until the doctor can see them, hoping the problem doesn’t get worse.

Fortunately, state law gives patients another option. Direct access allows you to contact and start treatment with a physical therapist of your choosing, eliminating the delay of waiting for a doctor’s permission. Your Northern Virginia physical therapist can help you through the first stages of the problem, saving you time, money, and aggravation.

Virginia Allows Modified Direct Access to Physical Therapy

Virginia law gives patients the right to begin physical therapy without first obtaining a referral or prescription from a physician for 60 days. Under the Code of Virginia § 54.1-3482, a certified doctor of physical therapy may evaluate and treat a patient for no more than 60 consecutive days after an initial evaluation without a referral as long as the patient is not receiving care from a doctor of medicine, osteopathy, chiropractic, podiatry, or a licensed nurse practitioner for the symptoms requiring physical therapy.

If you are receiving care from a doctor of medicine or a licensed nurse practitioner for your symptoms, you could also get direct access to 60 days of physical therapy if one or more of the following is true:

  • You give written consent for the physical therapist to release your personal health information and treatment records to your treating physician.
  • Your physical therapist notifies your treating physician within 14 days of the start of treatment and provides the practitioner with copies of your initial evaluation and your account of your medical history.
  • You identify as a licensed doctor of medicine, osteopathy, chiropractic, podiatry, or dental surgery.
  • You identify as a licensed nurse practitioner or a licensed physician assistant acting under the supervision of a licensed physician.

Can I Start Treating With a Physical Therapist Immediately?

Although you may not need a referral, your physical therapist will need to evaluate your condition to rule out any reasons why therapy may not be the best option. Our physiotherapists are trained to identify potential underlying medical conditions and can refer you to the appropriate medical professionals.

If we believe you would benefit from our services, we devise a plan of care that includes the following:

  • Starting slowly. The goal of each session is to allow patients to move more easily and efficiently throughout their daily activities. By properly stretching muscles, physical therapists can increase your range of motion and make it easier for you to move freely without risking injury or causing further pain.
  • Targeting problem areas. A physical therapist should tailor your treatment to the specific mechanics of your body and your desired outcome for the future. For example, if you need sports physical therapy, your therapist should identify any weaknesses in form or muscular development to help prevent future injuries.
  • Contacting your doctor if you need additional sessions. If you still need physical therapy after 60 consecutive days, we can contact your primary doctor for authorization to continue your treatment.

Physical therapy offers many benefits beyond treating musculoskeletal conditions such as sports injuries, back pain, neck pain, and joint pain. It can provide relief from chronic or acute pain without medications or surgery, increase mobility through improved flexibility, and even improve posture through proper alignment techniques. All these benefits combine to create an effective form of treatment that can help you achieve your health goals while avoiding unnecessary risks associated with medications or surgery.

Dr. Carlos J. Berio
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D.P.T. Doctor of Physical Therapy in Virginia