Physical Therapy Myth Busters!

PT Myth Busters

Written by Meredith Miles, PT, DPT

As a physical therapist, I often hear false beliefs about our field before someone even has the chance to experience what we have to offer. Below are just a few of the common misconceptions that I’ve debunked. The world of physical therapy is vast and so much more than stretching! We are expert medical professionals that have studied and trained to treat movement dysfunction with hands on techniques and in-depth knowledge of the body to help you be the best version of yourself.


  1. I need a doctor’s referral to see a PT
  • A common misconception about PT is that you can only access care through a referral made by your primary care provider. However, through a law called Direct Access, you can see a physical therapist for the first 30 days of care if using a standard insurance company or self-payment method. This excludes all federal insurances including Medicare, Medicaid, Tricare, etc. There are several benefits to this: first, Direct Access prevents you from having to pay an additional co-pay to see your doctor first! Saving money- already a win! Plus, it allows you to skip the often-time-consuming doctor’s visits and instead receive quality care right away. PTs will set you up with a customized recovery plan and get you feeling better faster.


  1. PT is only for athletes
  • It’s true, we do treat athletes. But that’s not all folks! PT is an all-encompassing field that treats a wide variety of conditions, age ranges, and backgrounds. We focus on treating the whole person! That means educating on healthy lifestyles by preventing injuries, reducing physical decline of chronic conditions, and optimizing movement patterns to improve performance. We can see anything from post op recovery to pelvic floor dysfunction, TMJ, stroke, lymphedema management, low back pain, balance and fall prevention, diabetes education and so much more. Check out our website to learn more about our specialized services. PT can help anyone looking to recover from an injury, suffering from co-morbidities or maintain a higher quality of life.


  1. Surgery is the only option to fix my pain
  • Depending on your injury or health condition, surgery may be needed. But, often times physical therapy is a great conservative method in treating your symptoms. PT is an effective tool that utilizes therapeutic exercise and application of modalities to restore normal function and movement. Some conditions that are commonly treated with surgery such as rotator cuff tears, ligamentous injuries, nerve pain, degenerative joint disease and arthritis can also be healed with physical therapy interventions. There are not only high-cost factors but elevated risks that come with surgery. It is not your only option and should not be considered more effective than PT.


  1. Physical Therapists and Chiropractors are the same
  • While some methods are similar, the two professions are unique in their own ways. Both professions receive a doctoral level education in their respective fields. The goals are the same: help people move better and feel better. PTs and chiropractors are also both able to perform joint mobilizations and manipulations. However, chiropractors utilize spinal adjustments or subluxate joints to treat pain. Physical therapists examine your symptoms and thoroughly assess various aspects of the body to find the root cause of dysfunction. If your impairment is not joint related, a chiropractor may not be necessary. PTs will develop an individualized plan using multiple interventions catered to fixing the source of impairment whether that be musculoskeletal or neuromuscular related.


  1. PT is expensive
  • It is very easy to rack up on medical costs. You go see your primary care doctor and you are already looking at paying a copay. They may request imaging to be done which means thousands of dollars spent on an MRI, CT scan or X-ray that may not be covered by insurance. Medications may be prescribed to help with pain which are an additional costly factor. If surgery is suggested, you may be paying upwards of $7,000+. Physical therapy in comparison ranges anywhere from $0-$200 per visit. Studies have shown physical therapy can lower patient treatment costs by 72%. Patients who initially utilized PT services saved an average of $4,793 more than those who used other healthcare services first (i.e. MRI, surgery, injections, ER visits, spine specialists). PT is an affordable option that will help you safely restore function and achieve health goals!



Sources used:

Gallup, Inc (2021). Americans Prefer Drug-Free Pain Management Over Opioids [Online]. Available from:


Fritz JM, Brennan GP, Hunger SJ. Physical Therapy or Advanced Imaging as First Management Strategy Following a New Consultation for Low Back Pain in Primary Care: Associations with Future Health Care Utilization and Charges. Health Serv Res. 2015 Mar 16.