Research Supports Physical Therapists As Primary Care Providers For Musculoskeletal Conditions

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Evidence continues to support the utilization of Physical Therapists as a first line treatment for patients with musculoskeletal conditions such as back, neck, shoulder, or knee pain. Patient self referral for Physical Therapy services or direct access has been safely utilized in our country since the late 1950s. Many large corporations and the U.S. Military utilize this model of care due to its’ clinical and cost effectiveness. Patient’s seen by a Physical Therapist first save on average $1000-1500 per episode of care. This model allows patients to access high quality care quickly after the onset of an injury avoiding lost time and money associated with delays in the traditional healthcare system.

Bornhoft and colleagues randomized patients from 3 medical clinics with musculoskeletal disorders to either a primary care physician or Physical Therapist (Ther Adv Musculoskeletal Dis. 2019). Patients were followed at 2, 12, 26, and 52 weeks after the initial consultation with a medical provider. Authors were interested in a patient’s symptoms, function, quality of life, and risk for developing chronic musculoskeletal symptoms. They found both groups of patients improved but consistently better outcomes in the group treated by Physical Therapists. The authors concluded Physical Therapists can be safely and effectively recommended as an alternative management pathway for patients with musculoskeletal conditions.