Apr 25, 2011

Who's the Musculoskeletal Expert...Your Physician or Your Physical Therapist?

By: Tom Walters, DPT, CSCS

I hope the answer to this question does not surprise you, but your physical therapist is the correct choice!

A study published in the BioMed Central Journal of Musculoskeletal Disorders tested physical therapists, physical therapy students, physicians from a variety of specialties, medical residents and medical students on their knowledge of musculoskeletal medicine.  The study showed that physical therapists with or without board certification and physical therapy students in their last year of school scored higher than medical residents and all physician specialties except orthopedic surgeons (see graph below).

The results of this study would probably surprise many consumers of physical therapy services, which is something we as therapists need to change.  Personally, I have discussed this topic with many individuals and constantly find that people are shocked at the level of education required to become a physical therapist and are even more dumbfounded when they find out that therapists often complete residencies and fellowships.  As therapists, we must do our best to educate patients on what it means to be a physical therapist and always take the time to explain musculoskeletal concepts as they relate to a patient’s particular diagnosis.  By doing so, we will be better serving our patients and promoting the profession.

With these results of this study in mind, I ask that the readers of this article support direct access legislation to physical therapy services. Most states have already passed some form of direct access, which means the consumer can go directly to a physical therapist for musculoskeletal problems without having to spend extra time and money by having to see their physician first. However, some states have not passed direct access or have a restricted version at this time.

For more information on direct access and to see what is going on in a particular state, please follow the following link from the American Physical Therapy Association.

Tom Walters, DPT, CSCS is an orthopaedic and Redcord certified Neurac suspension-exercise physical therapist at Prevail Conditioning Performance Center.  Tom has experience in orthopedic private practice, long-term care, traveling therapy and sport medicine.  For further information regarding this topic, please contact Tom at tom@prevailconditioning.com

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