I was in the waiting room of one of the (many) physical therapy practices I’ve visited over the past several years when a couple came in to talk to the receptionist and set up some physical therapy visits. The couple had just moved to Texas and was apparently quite surprised to hear that they just couldn’t set up physical therapy visits (like any other healthcare provider), that a prescription is required. Apparently, many states have open access to physical therapists — which I happen to think is a great idea. A bit of further investigation (see previous link) indicates that access restrictions to physical therapists vary greatly from no restrictions (Alaska, for example) to convoluted (New Jersey to cite one).

I’m wrapping up my PT sessions associated with my knee replacement this week. I don’t believe in physical therapy just for the sake of it, but I do believe it has a valuable place in a health and wellness plan — particularly for anyone with RA. I’ve often thought that a visit with a therapist when I’ve had a specific complaint (such as hip bursitis) would be worthwhile to learn non-drug techniques to help resolve the issue. Unfortunately, in Texas, that requires a visit to a doctor to prescribe it, and it’s usually a full course of 30 days or 12 visits, and is often overkill for when you want/need something more than what a personal trainer at the gym can offer.

But what has happened is that my current physical therapy group (which is part of one of the major hospital systems here) is offering “wellness” visits. This is where you work with a therapist on wellness/fitness issues. It is not considered physical therapy and is not covered by insurance.

That being said, with three major surgeries (rotator cuff, spinal fusion, and knee replacement) within 10 months, I’ve lost a lot of strength and fitness. And trust me, I do not trust a 20-something physical trainer to understand the limitations of my three joint replacements, back surgeries, and progressive rheumatoid arthritis. However, I do trust my current physical therapist who has been working with me on my knee. So I have signed up for six weeks at twice a week to work with her. The goal is to formulate a program (both in the gym and in the pool) that will start me back on the road to wellness, helping build my strength and stamina back in a safe and sane way. It may not take the full six weeks to formulate the plan, but I figure if I stick with it for six weeks, hopefully I will continue the program after the sessions expire. I can always sign up for individual sessions when I’m ready to make a change in the future.

In researching this, I saw several sites that are striving for open access not only for Texans but across America. And while I agree that there needs to be some regulation of all medical professionals (to help avoid abuse), I am also a firm believer that important specialties like physical therapists are a valuable part of many people’s health care and should be readily accessible.

And if your state allows open access to physical therapists, you should take advantage of this opportunity when the need arises. Not all of us are so lucky.

Thanks for checking in.