Who Ya Gonna Call?

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Who is the medical provider best suited to the ailment you are suffering from?  Think you know the answer.  Take the quiz below to see how well you do.If you were suffering from one of the conditions below, which type of practitioner would you go see for treatment? Match the condition to the best choice of practitioner (there may be more than one correct answer).

Provider Quiz

Here are the answers, including others who may be appropriate to treat the condition listed. () indicate other acceptable choices.

  1. Heart Attack- Emergency Room
  2. Skin Rash- Dermatologist, (Pharmacist, Primary Care Physician)
  3. Back Pain- Physical Therapist
  4. Influenza- Nurse Practitioner, (Primary Care Physician)
  5. Arthritis- Physical Therapist
  6. Broken Tooth- Dentist
  7. Bunions- Physical Therapist, (Podiatrist)
  8. Difficulty with Hand Writing- Occupational Therapist
  9. Vision Problems- Optometrist/Ophthalmology
  10. Poor Balance/Falls- Physical Therapist
  11. Broken Bone- Emergency Room, (Primary Care Physician)
  12. Sprained Joint/Ligament- Physical Therapist
  13. Seasonal Allergies- Pharmacist
  14. Chronic Pain- Physical Therapist, (Primary Care Physician, Neurologist)
  15. Constipation- Nurse Practitioner, (Primary Care Physician)
  16. Depression- Psychiatrist/Psychologist
  17. Unexplained weakness- Physical Therapist
  18. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome- Physical Therapist
  19. Tendonitis- Physical Therapist
  20. Torn Meniscus/Cartilage- Physical Therapist (Orthopedic Physician/Surgeon)
  21. Headaches/Migraines- Primary Care Physician, (Neurologist)
  22. Numbness/Tingling- Physical Therapist
  23. Difficulty Swallowing- Speech Therapist, (Primary Care Physician, Emergency Room)
  24. Diabetes- Primary Care Physician
  25. Vertigo- Physical Therapist

How well did you do? A recent study published in the Journal of Physical Therapy Education indicated that when asked about a group of common conditions, the majority of people selected their Primary Care Physician (PCP) as the practitioner of choice. This occurs despite the fact that in many cases PCP’s will refer a patient with these conditions to someone else for treatment. They do this for several reasons:

  1. PCP’s are BUSY. The average physician likely see 30 or more patients a day. The fact is, they may not have time to perform in depth treatments that could just as easily be treated elsewhere.
  2. It’s not really in their wheel house. Primary care physicians are responsible for managing common health problems such as high blood pressure, cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and bacterial or viral infection. They may also help manage and regulate medications prescribed by multiple specialists who treat cancer, neurologic disease or other conditions. PCP’s may prescribe medications that help with pain or inflammation control for common conditions, but don’t necessarily prescribe exercises or other hands on treatments needed to cure the conditions.
  3. The medical system in this country has evolved a great deal in the last 50 years. In the 1950’s and 1960’s, specialties like physical and occupational therapy were still in their infancy. Utilization of health care services was also much lower, and as a result physicians performed the majority of all the healthcare that was delivered. Today, 3 times as many people utilize health care services. Because preventing and treating serious conditions like heart disease and cancer is the primary focus of most physicians, low back pain, arthritis and chronic pain are more appropriately treated by specialists in physical and occupational therapy. Not to mention the fact that the allied health professions have exploded and serve the purpose of delivering quick, cost effective care that better targets patient problems.

The role of allied health care providers (physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, nurse practioner, optometry, pharmacist, etc.) is constantly evolving, and many have now achieved or are working towards autonomous practice. What this means is that a patient can go directly to the person who can ideally treat them the best, without a referral. This is important because:

  1. It will relieve the strain on physician resources, allowing PCP’s and other specialist physicians to focus more on conditions that require more of their attention.
  2. It will decrease the amount of time required for patients to receive the treatment they need.
  3. It will decrease the amount of health care expenditures overall by decreasing unnecessary diagnostic testing, and decreasing the number of practitioners a patient must see to get relief.
  4. It will improve treatment quality for everyone by properly matching the best treatment to the best condition.

Physical Therapists are the practitioners of choice for conditions such as back and neck pain, arthritis, knee pain, shoulder pain, ligament and joint sprains, carpal tunnel syndrome, muscle weakness, poor balance and falls, and vertigo. Consistent research has shown that patients with neck or back pain who see a physical therapist directly improve faster, for about a third of the cost. Physical Therapists are trained to diagnose and treat many conditions, and now have some form of direct access (can see patients without a referral) in all 50 states. Additionally, if you are suffering from depression, anxiety, digestive problems, heart disease, skin problems or cancer exercise can help. Though they may not directly treat these diseases, they will use exercise based interventions to improve the effects of other medical treatments, and improve general health status.

October is National Physical Therapy Month and the theme this year is #AgeWell. Exercise has been shown to be the closest thing to the fountain of youth, so people who exercise regularly will truly age well. Physical Therapists as movement specialists can help patients overcome ailments and improve general health through exercise. For more information on National Physical Therapy Month, or how physical therapy can help you visit www.apta.com or call our clinic today.


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