When should I go to physio vs GP?

when should i go to physio vs gp?
Know the right time to see physio or doctor

Do you know people that have recently injured themselves, but have not previously seen a physio, may naturally ask who they need to see – a physio or their doctor?  When someone hurts themself or needs advice and treatment for an accident, the first specialists they go to are typically medical professionals like GPs.  

In recent years, the study of musculoskeletal injuries and injuries sustained while participating in sports, daily activities or work has evolved into a specialised profession that transcends the knowledge base of your typical doctor.  For instance, there are now Sports Doctors in the field of medicine, and there are also Sports Physios in the field of sports physiotherapy

The two fields of medical practice and physiotherapist both compliment and support each other when dealing with any kind of physical condition leading to better health outcomes for the patients that see both professions for guidance.

Working in private practice at Rosanna Physiotherapy, our typical clientele very much consists of the management of musculoskeletal problems and pain & injury suffered by both athletes and members of the general public alike.  Many have seen a doctor before being referred to us, while others have gone directly to our clinic for help and health treatment.  

The following is a list of questions that we are typically asked by new clients that help clarify the skillsets of doctor / GP and Physiotherapist and how their treatment compliments each other and how they support and assist you back to good function and mobility.

I have just injured myself – who should I see for the initial assessment of my injury? doctor or physiotherapy?

A Doctor and physiotherapist will both be equipped to make an accurate diagnosis of your injury.  The fact that a diagnosis has been made is one of the most critical things.  We frequently treat clients who have been referred to physiotherapy by their primary care physician but have not been given an official diagnosis.  

This is frustrating for both the physiotherapist and patients as we are starting from scratch and the opportunity to get valuable analysis from the doctor has been missed.  If you see a GP before a physio, please ensure you request the doctor’s diagnosis on your injury or condition be included in their referral.


Is a GP or a physiotherapist the right person to treat my health condition?

In a nutshell, the answer is dependent on the injury and level of pain.  Also, many injuries may require the input and direction from both a doctor and a physiotherapist.  For example, it is not unusual for a physiotherapist to get a client to consult with their primary care physician in order to obtain a prescription for anti-inflammatory medication for a health problem.  

This is because physiotherapists are unable to issue prescriptions for such medications.  When it comes to musculoskeletal injuries, like back pain, in most cases having a physical therapist as a guide will allow you to get more information and a more comprehensive perspective that will lead to a better health outcome.  Physical Therapists breadth of knowledge and experience when dealing with physical injuries is industry leading as we specifically specialise in this domain.

Can I go straight to see the physio? Don’t they need a patient referral to see me?

Some clients are surprised to learn that they can book straight in with a physiotherapist – you do not need to get a referral from a doctor.  Physiotherapists are first contact clinicians and a physiotherapist can provide relief and prevent ongoing complications immediately.

This means that a physio can see a new client and conduct a thorough assessment of their physical injury as they have the training, education and experience that enables them to do so – all with no prior input or analysis from a doctor.  This distinguishes physical therapists from other medical professionals, such as surgeons, who are secondary contact clinicians.

Seeing a physiotherapist is straightforward, please book in with them at your earliest convenience.

Who will work with patients to define a treatment plan for their health condition?

There’s no hard or fast rule with but typically this falls under seeing a physio.  The vast majority of people who visit Rosanna Physiotherapy are aware that, on a regular basis, we plan out different drills and exercises to assist with our clients’ rehabilitation and improvement of body function & mobility over time and improve their quality of life. 

As mentioned, this is one of the areas that physical therapists specialise in, unlike GPs.  GPs are well aware of physiotherapy’s expertise in this area and will refer their clients to be seeing us without hesitation when some kind of physical rehabilitation and pain management for a health problem is required.

Are Physios Under Medicare?

Who provides manual hands on therapy?

Once more, this is a restricted area for GPs to practice in.  The necessary manual therapy training is provided to physiotherapists so that they can do this kind of injury treatment and get their clients the best possible health outcome and pain reduction.  Physical therapists are highly skilled in guiding you through the different stages of rehabilitatio and manual therapy.

I have been advised I should get a scan, who should I see?

There are two possible courses of action here.  Both GPs and physical therapists have the ability to request scans due to injury; however, the Medicare rebates for some scans will be different if a physiotherapist requests them on your behalf.  Your physiotherapist has the option of either referring you directly to a specialist for a scan or sending you to the primary care physician for a referral to a specialist.  

In summary, it is dependent on the type of scan you require for your injury and what level of chronic pain you may be in.  It’s interesting to note that much of a physiotherapist’s training focuses on making proper referrals for scans for an injury or pain – much time is spent on this one topic alone.  These may come with a big price tag, and take a lot of time, and certain scans expose clients to a certain amount of radiation.  It is essential that scans be performed in the appropriate manner, and both the physiotherapist and the majority of GPs will be able to guide you through this treatment.

GPs and physios compliment each other and both may be required for effective treatment of a physical condition

Correct, at Rosanna Physiotherapy, our staff makes sure the health of our clients is, above all else, the single most crucial factor in what we do.  The following are some of the reasons why we maintain tight relationships with medical professionals so our clients feel like a priority:

  • referrals for scans, injections, specialists, and other medical professionals
  • as well as prescriptions for medication and other treatments

The majority of physiotherapists will be aware of the necessity to recommend clients to see other health partners, such as GPs or an exercise physiologist, and the same can be said of the majority of competent doctors.  Either health professional will typically refer to doctors when the client requires treatment or care from injury or pain that is best suited to the other specialist and back again after they saw them if required.

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