Is it necessary for the physical therapist to get the correct diagnosis from the M.D.?
For the most part, no!  The majority of the time, it makes no difference what the physician’s diagnosis is when it comes to the proper diagnosis for physical therapy.  This is because the physical therapist’s job is to evaluate and treat the “dysfunction” a patient presents with during his or her movement.

For example, a 65 year old woman can come into the clinic with back pain and a diagnosis of a disc bulge.  However, given her age, she most likely has degenerative discs and arthritis in her spine as well.  Furthermore, if she later follows up with an orthopedist who gives a different diagnosis of arthritis, then the physical therapist should not change his /her treatment plan based on a new diagnosis.

The Physical Therapist must stay true to his first evaluation findings.  As I mentioned before, the Physical Therapist’s job is to evaluate and determine which movements are dysfunctional and more importantly, which movements are successful.  In most cases the diagnosis should have no influence on the physical therapy treatment.

Most physicians are aware of this and that is why they will usually just write “back pain” on a prescription for physical therapy.  At Brunswick Physical Therapy a patient with back pain is assessed to determine if the patient would benefit from spinal manipulation, soft tissue manipulation, exercise, or any combination thereof to restore the movement they are lacking in.

There is a science to determining which treatments and which direction to apply those treatments.  There are no “cookbook” treatment plans.

Questions? Comments? Let me hear from you!

~ Peter St.Germain, PT