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Choosing Your Physical Therapist

Choosing Your PT

Your health care starts with you.

You are the most important member of your health care team.  Actively participating and making informed decisions about your plans of care is integral to your overall health and well-being.

You have the right to choose who is on your team.

That includes deciding to see a physical therapist and you have the freedom to choose when and which physical therapist you’d like to have on your health care team. In Illinois, you can be evaluated and treated by a physical therapist with or without a referral from another health care provider (physicians, chiropractors, dentists, advanced practice registered nurses, physician assistants, and podiatrists).

Keep in mind that it’s best to check with your insurance provider before seeking out any type of health care service so that you understand what your plan will (and will not) cover. Your insurance policy may require a visit to your primary care physician first, limit your access to preferred providers only, or require preauthorization to begin physical therapy. 

You have the right to insist on qualified providers.

Always insist that your physical therapy be provided by a licensed physical therapist.  Other health care professionals may claim to provide “physical therapy” but physical therapy is not a generic term.  In Illinois, it is illegal to advertise/claim to provide physical therapy unless it is provided by a licensed physical therapist or a licensed physical therapist assistant who is supervised by a licensed physical therapist.





You can see a physical therapist without a referral for evaluation, fitness and wellness services, and in some cases treatment.*

*While the state practice law allows for direct access, a referral may still be required pursuant to corporate policies, personal insurance policies and/or other state practice setting laws.


Physical therapists treat a variety of conditions.

Physical therapists treat new injuries as simple as a muscle sprain or they can help you recover from more serious conditions such as knee replacement or even recovery after a stroke.  Other conditions that physical therapists treat include headaches, back and neck pain, tendonitis, and childhood conditions such as cerebral palsy. People with chronic conditions such as multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s disease as well as people with chronic pain benefit from physical therapy because physical therapy is a non-addictive way to feel and move better without prescription pain-killers. 

You may need a physical therapist who specializes in your condition.

Part of your right to choose health care providers includes selecting the best provider for your specific condition. Some physical therapists have specialized knowledge and advanced clinical skills in certain areas including conditions relating to heart/lung, arthritis/bone, muscles, nerves, brain injury, or bladder. Physical therapists may also specialize in care for specific populations such as athletes, kids, older adults, or women’s health.

Part of making informed decisions about your health care includeds knowing how much it will cost.

Some policies require copayments (out of pocket costs) for services, and the amount of the copayment will depend on whether the physical therapist is in network for your insurance plan. You may have to meet your deductible. Your physical therapist’s clinic should be able to help you calculate an estimate what your care will cost you and what your insurance plan will pay.

Your first visit should include an exaluation by the physical therapist.

Your physical therapist will physically examine you to identify current and potential problems as well as ask questions about your medical history. Based on the results of the evaluation and considering your specific goals, your physical therapist will customize your treatment and give you an estimated timeframe for you to meet your goals. Your physical therapist will likely give you exercises to do at home as part of your treatment plan.

Dont be afraid to ask questions.

You should feel comfortable asking your physical therapist any questions regarding your course of care, including treatment options and what to expect during physical therapy. 

Your physical therapist will collaborate with other members of your health care team.

While a referral for physical therapy by a physician or other health care professional is not required, your physical therapist will notify any other treating members of your health care team so that they can collaborate to ensure that you are receiving all the care needed to restore and maintain your optimal health.

Physical therapists make referrals too.

If at any time a physical therapist recognizes that you are not making progress or identifies conditions that require additional investigation or are outside the scope of physical therapy, a physical therapist will refer you to the appropriate health care provider. A physical therapist may also recommend routine health care examinations and tests or help you to get established with general or specialty health providers.

Optimizing your health is another reason to see a physical therapist.

Physical therapists also work with generally healthy people to maintain their health, including physical fitness and wellness.  Physical therapists are movement experts who can develop a safe exercise plan that is customized to meet your needs and goals that includes ways to prevent future injuries.

Updated 05.01.2020

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