They are experts in improving movement and reducing pain, but what else do physical therapists do? When it comes to physical therapy there are several misnomers that can prevent people from getting the care they need to feel better and live a more active life. Here are seven things you probably didn’t know about the physical therapy industry that may change your perception and make a believer out of you.

1. Physical therapists don’t just treat orthopedic-related injuries. While many PTs treat a variety of conditions, some specialize in other areas such as women’s health, balance and vestibular disorders, sports medicine, neurology, cardiac rehab, and geriatrics.

2. No referral is required for an initial physical therapy evaluation. It is estimated that 70% of people mistakenly believe they must have a referral from their provider before being seen by a physical therapist. This is not the case. In fact, in Oregon patients have direct access to physical therapy care. Some insurances have restrictions about the type of treatment that can be provided without a referral. To better understand the direct access restrictions for physical therapy, view this chart by the APTA. Additionally, you can call the phone number on your insurance card to ask for specific details as to your coverage.

3. Physical therapy is just a bunch of exercises that I can do at home. Sadly, this misnomer keeps some people from getting their best outcome following an injury. Physical therapy is more than a list of exercises to do at home. A qualified physical therapist can identify weaknesses and abnormalities that inhibit the ability to move in a normal path. One great story involves a Sisters, OR man who was coming to physical therapy for knee-related pain. As he progressed into balancing exercises, his PT (Nicole Stavale, PT, DPT, OCS)  identified severe balance and dizziness issues. After 40 years, many doctors, and a variety of failed treatments, this gentleman thought dizziness would be a part of the rest of his life. Thankfully, his PT was able to develop a program that has far exceeded his expectations and has helped him regain his life and career.

4. Not all physical therapists are created equal. When choosing a physical therapist, it is essential to not only find someone who specializes in your area of concern, but also someone that you connect with and trust. Not all physical therapists provide the same quality of care. Make a decision based on your unique needs and goals and don’t be afraid to make a switch if your PT isn’t working for you. At SSTP, we like to have each patient see at least 2 physical therapists in order to connect with and maximize the expertise available to the patient.


5. Physical therapy is often the first recommended treatment for many injuries and pain concerns. Before recommending or performing surgery, most doctors, refer their patients to physical therapy to strengthen weaknesses and address mobility issues. Numerous studies have shown that physical therapy can be as effective as surgery for treating a wide range of conditions.

6. Physical therapists can work in a variety of settings. A physical therapy clinic is the most well-known place for treatment. However, some other places physical therapists can work include fitness centers, schools, inpatient clinics, and emergency rooms.

7. Physical therapists help with concussion recovery. As part of a team of clinical and nonclinical personnel, physical therapists play an integral role in concussion recovery. A concussion recovery team may consist of eye doctors, sports coaches, physical therapists, occupational therapists, primary care doctors, school teachers, and family members. Physical therapists provide specialized therapy to help concussion patients return to work, school, sports, and leisure activities, as safely and quickly as possible. More information on concussion recovery can be found here