How to get a Kaiser PT referral when I'm not in severe pain
September 22, 2019 4:12 PM   Subscribe

Will my GP refer me to a physical therapist (Kaiser Northern California) if I don't necessarily have severe pain or been in an accident? How to approach her about it, so I get a referral?

I'm convinved that PT will help me, but I don't have acute symptoms. I've given up finding a massage therapist to help with chronic neck and shoulder tension because it's been terribly hit or miss. Plus it's expensive. When I was lightly rear-ended about 10 years ago, I went to PT for neck pain. That was the first and only time I felt relief with the way she manipulated and massaged my neck. Because my pain wasn't severe, and it was a student health center, I was only given a few appointments before I was sent on my way.

Also open to advice if you have experience with this kind of situation but think PT isn't what I need.

May be helpful anecdotal info.: I'm very sensitive and have had near panic attacks during several different accupuncture sessions with two different providers 10 years apart. Until someone can help me figure out how not to have a panic attack, acupuncture is off the table. Same with Chiropractic manipulations. Bad experience.

Massage has been OK but I have yet to find someone I trust. PT felt the best because it felt upmost professional in a clinical setting. And she helped to relieve my pain.
posted by jj's.mama to Health & Fitness (8 answers total)
Sure, that's exactly what PT is for, I can't imagine you'd have any problems getting sent, especially if you've had good results in the past. If you were in a car accident they might want to do xrays or something first but any reasonable doctor would send you to PT I'm sure.
posted by fshgrl at 4:17 PM on September 22, 2019 [5 favorites]

Share a version of your question with your doctor. Sometimes writing it down gets taken more seriously. Good luck!
posted by Bella Donna at 4:42 PM on September 22, 2019 [2 favorites]

Oh definitely. "I was in a car accident some years ago and the injury has been flaring up again. It's been X weeks and I've tried [ice, rest, massage, NSAIDs, etc.], but it's really not working and I think going back to a PT could help." They'll probably be downright grateful you have such a reasonable proposal.
posted by teremala at 4:48 PM on September 22, 2019 [3 favorites]

I did this recently (though not in CA) and yeah, the doctor was quite pleased that I wanted PT instead of pain meds and was very happy to write the referral.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 5:00 PM on September 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

It has also been my experience that GPs are happy to refer to PT for this kind of thing. They understand PT, they have established mechanisms for referrals, they don’t have to worry about managing additional side effects. Teremala’s script is good.

One thing not to do is downplay the pain or discomfort it causes you when you talk to the doctor. You’re saying you don’t have acute symptoms and you’re describing it as “tension” rather than pain, but it bothers you enough to seek physical therapy (which is a time-consuming pain in the ass), and to ask us about it. It must really be bothering you!
posted by jeoc at 5:22 PM on September 22, 2019 [4 favorites]

There should be no problem with this. Honestly, physical therapy is not really for if you have fresh trauma or serious life-function-altering pain, there would be other things that needed to happen first. So "I am getting by but it definitely sucks and I think it could be improved" is a good place to be, so to speak, for that kind of referral.

It's likely that this round of treatment will focus more on mobility/range/flexibility/strengthening than massage (which is common immediately after injury, but later after the healing has begun is when the exercising starts), but that is absolutely the right next step for an injury that doesn't need surgery, immobilization, or medication.

Some insurance IS super stingy and limiting for PT sessions. In my anecdotal experience Kaiser is more generous than some thanks to the way their system works and what the costs are for PT versus a physician's time.
posted by Lyn Never at 5:55 PM on September 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

A magic phrase that can help is "This injury is interfering with my activities of daily living." And describe some specific day-to-day things you have trouble with, like if it hurts to put something away on a high shelf, or cook, or if the pain interferes with your sleep. Explain how it impacts your life.
posted by medusa at 12:23 AM on September 23, 2019 [4 favorites]

Not in your location, but I didn't experience any resistance with my Kaiser GP referring me to PT.

Also, at my work place it is possible to request a medical ergonomic assessment with a doctor's note. I was experiencing neck and back pain from my office chair, and my GP sent me a note through the Kaiser portal with this request the next day. Again... no resistance.

Also, potentially relevant to your situation... in my experience the quality of kaiser PT depended greatly on location.
posted by oceano at 10:31 PM on September 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

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