While physical therapy is proven to help older adults recover from injuries and help manage chronic conditions, it's also a great wellness tool.
Medicare does not cover preventive physical therapy services, but you could request a referral from your primary care physician if you notice difficultly with tasks like climbing stairs, lifting heavy objects, or maintaining your balance.
The American Physical Therapy Association recommends everyone visit a physical therapist at least annually to optimize movement and promote health, wellness, and fitness.
Physical therapists make a huge difference in the lives of older adults recovering from injuries, and working with a therapist can help protect against falls and improve daily management of chronic conditions. But what if your long-term health could be improved by seeing a physical therapist for preventive care?
Do physical therapists provide wellness and preventive care?
Yes, they do! While most people do not see a physical therapist until there is a problem, it does not have to be this way. Physical therapists have expertise around wellness, lifestyle modifications, exercise prescription and physical activity to help you improve your health and manage or even reverse chronic diseases.
A physical therapist can make a meaningful impact in your life by helping you to stay independent so you can do the things that matter the most.
This might be:
- Prescribing a personalized program if your mobility is decreasing.
- Working on a comprehensive balance training program if you notice unsteadiness in crowded spaces.
- Helping you strengthen the muscles around your knee so you play pickleball pain free.
- Conducting a wellness assessment so you know which aspects of fitness to focus on.
Does Medicare pay for preventive physical therapy services?
Although Medicare does not currently cover preventive physical therapy services, a person does not have to wait until symptoms are severe to see a physical therapist.
For example, if you start to notice some difficulty climbing steps, lifting heavy objects, or maintaining your balance, you could request a visit with a physical therapist.
The physical therapist will complete an evaluation to determine if you qualify for therapy under your Medicare plan and create a treatment plan.
If your reason for wanting to see a physical therapist is not covered, you could still decide to see a physical therapist by paying for therapy services out of pocket. Your therapist would work with you to determine the cost of services.
How to set up a preventive visit with a physical therapist
You can visit a physical therapist without a physician’s order in all 50 states. After the first visit, your therapist will work with your doctor to review and approve the plan. You can also start with your physician and ask for a referral to physical therapy.
Finding a physical therapy clinic can be as easy as an internet search. The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) provides an online search option to find a physical therapist in a certain area who specializes in different areas. Asking friends, family, and co-workers for a recommendation on a physical therapist can be another great way to link up with a therapist.
How often should a person see a physical therapist?
APTA also recommends that everyone visit a physical therapist at least annually to optimize movement and promote health, wellness, and fitness. Just like you see a dentist for your oral health, you can visit with a physical therapist to maintain your movement and vitality for years to come.
While not as commonplace as going to see your doctor or dentist once a year, you may find an annual visit with a physical therapist beneficial and can pay dividends in the future. Physical therapists are ready to work with you in the area of prevention and wellness.