If you participate in a sport or are a human that moves throughout the day, injuries will be a fact of life. Slipping and falling, twisting an ankle, pulling a muscle - chances are you will experience at least one in your lifetime.
Injuries are often accidents. Inherently, accident can't be anticipated. So when one happens, it is never a pleasant experience and they often seem to happen at the worst of times.
In order to minimize the stress and fear that can coincide with such a situation, I strongly recommend seeing a physical therapist directly.
1) Physical therapy is a doctorate level profession.
Therapists often share basic anatomy and physiology coursework with physician's assistants. Physical therapists are required to pass a national licensure exam in order to practice.
2) Physical therapists are trained to clinically differentiate and diagnose musculoskeletal injuries and conditions.
This includes the ability to recognize problems and situations that are out of their scope of practice. If such a situation presents itself, a referral will be made to the appropriate health care provider for further investigation.
3) Physical therapists provide safe and effective care.
In this 2005 study, physical therapists were on average 2nd only to orthopedic physicians in terms of all healthcare provider's knowledge in musculoskeletal examination and assessment. Here's a visual of average provider scores from that study:
4) Illinois is a direct access (to physical therapy) state.
This is exactly what it sounds like: you don't need a referral or prescription to see a physical therapist. You may see one directly, just like you would a primary care physician or a dentist.
5) Save money.
Avoid unnecessary imaging or prescriptions. Many acute injuries are very painful due to tissue injury. However, only severe injuries where surgical procedures are being considered benefit from MRI imaging in order to plan the procedure. For severe injuries, seek emergency care right away. For non-emergency situations, conservative management is the gold standard.
6) Save time.
By seeing a physical therapist directly, you can have your concerns addressed on the spot, and leave the session with a formulated plan of recovery. Before direct access, a person may have had to see several providers, repeating their story to each one, before anything was actually done to help their problem. Delaying treatment in this way can lead to increased fear, lack of movement, and as a result increase the experienced disability.
7) Return to function faster.
Pain is scary and limits our movement. However, complete rest can often make the problem worse by dragging the recovery process out. The healing process starts the moment the injury happens. So the faster something is done about the problem, the faster you will get better. A physical therapist will use their training to identify which movements are safe to perform during the healing process. This guidance is vital in helping you heal optimally, and reducing the amount of time you are affected by your injury.