My Doctor Ordered Physical or Occupational Therapy: Can I do It on my own Instead?


Charles Lascano, MD, CAQSM, DABFM.

Sports Medicine Physician. Sanitas Medical Centers.

Para leer en Español

Commonly, medical providers prescribe physical therapy (PT) or occupational therapy (OT) for the treatment of musculoskeletal injuries or conditions. Unfortunately, patients often face different obstacles preventing them to go to a physiotherapy center, like the required copayments, a maximum number of therapy sessions allowed by their health insurance plans, previous bad experiences with therapy centers, or the patients’ inability to find time to go to their therapy sessions. Therefore, many patients decide to find therapy exercises online or to ask their physician for the recommended exercises. Before making this decision, it is important to keep in mind different factors which will be discussed below.

Firstly, certified physical and occupational therapists are professionally qualified and trained to help manage the pain and heal an injury in a carefully designed way that doesn’t cause further damage. When someone tries to be a physiotherapist him/herself, he/she risks injury.

Secondly, physiotherapists help tracing and understanding the root cause of the problem, helping to treat the real problem and avoid recurrence.

Thirdly, each person’s need for physiotherapy is unique and no two people will find relief with the same routine. A certified physiotherapist evaluates the medical history, looks deeper into the cause of the problem, and only then puts together a routine plan in the therapy center and for home or gym that can help to resolve the issue.

Fourthly, contrary to popular belief, physical/occupational therapy doesn’t only include exercises. While a major segment of PT and OT deals with exercises that focus on strength, mobility, and pain relief, the physiotherapist may also recommend treatments including posture correction and alignment, balance and coordination training, and gait training.

Lastly, if you had bad experiences in the past with a physiotherapy center, keep in mind that there can be significant differences between therapy centers. It is important to make sure to be treated by certified physiotherapists with proper credentials, and that the therapy center sends their treatment summary notes on time to the treating medical provider to facilitate the right therapeutic decisions. The treating medical provider is usually the best source when choosing the right therapy place.




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