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  • Writer's pictureAriela Liberman

Asking a Physical Therapist Frequently Asked Questions

Updated: Dec 22, 2023

Physical therapy is a common form of rehabilitation for individuals with injuries or conditions that affect their mobility, strength, stability, and function. However, many people may have questions about physical therapy, such as whether they need a doctor's referral, whether PT can help with conditions that require surgery, and how long physical therapy takes. To answer some of these common questions, I spoke with Rehab United's Executive Director of Clinical Operations, Arturo Valle, PT, DPT, FAFS, CSCS, STMT-1, BFRC, who shared his expert insights on physical therapy and why Rehab United specializes in finding the root cause of patients' issues through Applied Functional Science.

Watch the video version of this interview here!

Q: Do I need to see a doctor first before I go to Physical Therapy?

A: There is truth to that, but it's not always the case! Here in California, there is a Direct Access law in which patients do not need a doctor's referral to seek physical therapy. However, there are some limitations, as a patient can only be seen for 12 visits or 45 days, whichever comes first. It also depends on your insurance carrier, as certain providers require a referral first.

Q: If my doctor told me I need surgery for my condition, can PT help?

A: Yes, physical therapy can help with a variety of conditions! We see many patients who have been recommended surgery by their physician; however, we advise coming in for a physical therapy evaluation in order for our therapists to form an individualized plan of care. Many of our patients see improvements in their mobility, strength, stability, and function to the point where they no longer need surgery.

Q: If I'm in a lot of pain, should I just ignore it and wait for it to go away?

A: Many people, physical therapists included, will tend to just wait for their pain to go away on its own. However, it's important to note what happened prior to the pain. Ask yourself, "Is there something I did where there was a mechanism of injury that created my pain?" If you say yes, there was a specific event that occurred, do not wait it out! If there was not a specific event that occurred—for example, if you woke up with a dull kink in your neck—then yes, you can wait it out; but if your pain does not go away within two days, then seek care.

Q: Does physical therapy take a long time?

A: It's all up to your initial evaluation! Once we complete your evaluation, we will be able to determine your plan of care and how many sessions your case might require. You could have as little as one session or be in PT for a few weeks or months, all depending on your condition and how severe it is.

Q: Why should I come to Rehab United instead of other physical therapy clinics?

A: Although every physical therapist does a great job at regaining function in their patients, Rehab United specializes in finding the root cause of your issue in the first place, aka Applied Functional Science. Instead of taking a microscopic view, we take a panoramic view of your condition; we look at your whole body to see where a fault may lie that is leading to your functional deficit. We then address all those faults to make sure those impairments never return!

Interested in Physical Therapy?

Here at Rehab United, we care about our patients; we want to see you thrive and get back to the things you love. From the front desk to the physical therapists, our staff is full of wonderful and empathetic people dedicated to giving you the best care possible. We will support you throughout your entire recovery journey, don't wait, schedule today!


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Ariela Liberman is a Marketing Associate and a staff writer for Rehab United, with a Bachelor of Arts in Media Studies. Born and raised in San Diego, she is a Southern California native with a passion for writing, digital marketing, health, and wellness.

Arturo Valle, PT, DPT, FAFS, CSCS, STMT-1, BFR-1, CCI, is a Physical Therapist, Clinic Director of Rehab United in Escondido, and Director of Rehab United’s Quality Assurance Program. As a graduate of USC’s Doctor of Physical Therapy Program, Dr. Valle has always emphasized the implementation of Evidence-Based Practice into all plans of care. Throughout his 12 years of experience, Dr. Valle has treated thousands of orthopedic-related and sports injuries and mentored countless Physical Therapists and Students of Physical Therapy.

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