How To See A Physical Therapist in the US

As an avid runner involved in the NYC running community I tell people to see a Physical Therapist a lot. Got a niggle hamstring issue? See a PT. Calf strain? Might be worth seeing a PT! Shin splints? PT. You get the idea.

Navigating the US medical system to get care can be really daunting though. Hopefully this article can give you the knowledge to successfully navigate the system, get the care your need, and achieve your athletic and mobility goals.

The steps below outline how to see a PT via your insurance. It’s usually much cheaper this way, if not completely free. If you have cash to shell out $150/session though then you can just find a PT clinic and start treatment without arranging things with your insurance.


Find Your Insurance Info

You should have two insurance numbers: one identifying your insurance policy (sometimes called a “group number”) and one identifying you (sometimes called a “member number”).

Reach Out to Clinics

With your insurance information in hand, reach out to a few PT clinics. Explain to them the issue you are experiencing. They should ask you for your insurance information.

After you give them the insurance info, they will contact the insurance company on your behalf and find out what kind of treatment you are authorized for and how much it will cost.

Don’t schedule an appointment until the clinic gets back to you and tells you how much it will cost.

I also usually try to research and ask for a specific PT at a given clinic. If you are an athlete, finding someone who is athletic themselves and used to treating athletes is extremely important.

Sometimes Required: Getting A Referral

According to a PT friend of mine, in NYC you should be able to see a PT for 30 days or 10 sessions, whichever expires first, without a doctor’s referral.

That said, at some point you may need to get a referral.

This means that you need to see a doctor, explain the problem you are experiencing to them, and have them write a note recommending physical therapy treatment for the issue.

If you already have a doctor, you can schedule an appointment with them and explain that you are looking for a referral for a physical therapist.

If you do not have a doctor, try asking your friends if they have one they would recommend. ZocDoc is also a good tool here.

Tip: since Obama’s Affordable Care Act, every insurance plan must provide a free annual check up doctor visit. If you have not used your annual check up yet, schedule your doctor appointment as an annual physical. In the appointment, tell them you also need a PT referral and explain the issue. The doctor’s office will usually code the visit as just an annual check up, so you won’t have to pay anything!

Get Treatment & Do Exercises!

Hopefully by the end of this you’ve been able to arrange inexpensive or free physical therapy treatment.

Once you’re in treatment, be disciplined about your exercises. You’ve gone through so much effort to get treatment, it’s important to take advantage of it!

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