The Top 6 Myths About Physical Therapy Debunked


Yesterday I was at the gym, and I heard someone ask a personal trainer “Should I keep lifting weights?  I’m getting this shoulder pain.”  The trainer listened empathetically, and gave a lot of well meaning advice, such as “Try Reiki- I know this girl who really intuitively feels the body״; and “why don’t you do  yoga to balance out your strength training?”  I winced.  She should have said “See a Physical Therapist and get healed first.”

How do we stay in our lane?

There are many misconceptions about the human body; and just as many about physical therapists and the treatments they perform.  All this confusion means that doctors will sometimes recommend pain medication or surgery when a PT could heal an injury; or a personal trainer may steer out of their scope or practice, attempting to diagnose or treat an injury.

The following 6 misconceptions about Physical Therapy will clear your understanding about the scope of a physical therapist’s practice.

Myth 1: “I need a prescription from a physician to have access to a physical therapist

Truth: One of the most popular misconceptions about seeking physical therapy is that you need a prescription.  This is false. In all 50 states, a physical therapist can evaluate and treat you without a referral. Therefore, if you have a musculoskeletal injury or if you are experiencing pain, the physical therapist can be your primary care provider and diagnose you rather than you going to your physician and spending excess money on copays and unnecessary tests. After booking an appointment with a physical therapist, they will use their expertise to diagnose you, treat you, and formulate a treatment plan if needed.

Myth 2: “I can cure myself using alternative therapy such as reiki, acupuncture, yoga, massage, medication, a personal trainer, or an ice pack.” 

Truth: There are some conditions that respond well to each of the above things.  Acupuncture has proven to be excellent at decreasing swelling, and may improve nerve pain, but does not strengthen muscles or change positional mechanics.  Yoga is excellent exercise, but certain positions can cause pain or further injury.  Medication may simply dull pain and not heal.  A personal trainer does not typically have the credentials and knowledge base to handle injuries beyond first aid and CPR.  You need to go to an experienced medical professional who specializes in the musculoskeletal system if you are experiencing pain.

Myth 3: “I should only go to a PT when I’m injured”

Truth: Many physical therapy offices offer preventative well visits, including Theryon, and it is recommended to have one on an annual basis.  Preventative visits allow your therapist to improve your posture, body  mechanics, prevent injuries, improve gait, hand eye coordination, muscle strength, motor planning, decrease risk of osteoarthritis and muscle tears, and make appropriate referrals.  It can help anything from “texting thumb” to discomfort from walking in high heels. Learning a few good exercises annually can save you lots of money in the long run through preventative treatment.

Myth 4: “I can do my own Physical Therapy at home with WebMD” 

Truth: Physical Therapists know how the musculoskeletal system works better than anyone. Physical therapists typically have studied for 7 years to achieve their doctorates, and many have studied longer.   PTs have earned board certifications in specific areas such as neurology, orthopedics, sports, women’s health, and/or manual therapy so they are fully qualified to allow your body to function in a safe environment.  WebMD and YouTube do offer useful information but will not help you diagnose or treat an injury safely, and cause you to misdiagnose yourself and cause further injury.  It is best practice to learn how to perform exercises safely under supervision of a licensed PT.

Myth 5: Physical Therapy is too time consuming

Truth: You only have one life, and one body.  In the 21st century, there are no excuses to not take care of it.  Physical Therapists can now come on-demand, on your schedule, to your home, office, gym, or wherever.  Although a standard Theryon visit is 45 minutes to an hour, we can make it work if you have less time.  Get rid of your social media break, and take the time to care for your body.  Health is wealth.

Myth 6:  “Physical Therapy is too expensive!”

Truth:  How can you enjoy a great outfit if it hurts to wear it, or a nice house if it hurts to live in it?  Taking care of your body is the most important thing you can spend your money on.  Physical therapy  saves you money in the long run, by helping you avoid surgery and expensive medications down the road.  There are also a lot of ways to decrease the cost: 1) check to see if your insurance covers all of your PT with medical necessity 2) Request partial reimbursement from insurance: Although Theryon is listed as an out of network provider and charges a flat rate of $149 per appointment, you can request a reimbursement for PT services by sending the itemized receipt provided to your insurance company 3) Use a Theryon discount code for $25 off a session (ex: YELP)! 4) Utilize funds from a work Health Savings Plan to save with pre-tax dollars 5) Ask your company to partner with Theryon to give consistent discounts to all employees.

Be creative and remember: your body is your biggest investment.

One note:  As with all professionals, PTs also need to stay in their lane.  Your physical therapist should not be conducting MRIs or X-Rays, prescribing medications, or giving specific nutritional plans (general guidelines are ok).  Your body is extremely important, and for each of its needs, you should be attending to the most appropriate, educated specialist.

Dr. Arielle Bailey, PT, DPT and Nihar Patel, SPT



1. Bellamy J. APTA Debunks 7 Common Physical Therapy Myths. APTA. Published October 6, 2014. Accessed February 21, 2018.

2. Five common myths about physical therapy. Impact Physical Therapy Hillsboro. Published July 24, 2017. Accessed February 21, 2018.

3. Tea K. 10 Common Myths About Physical Therapy. My Physical Therapy Corner. Published September 6, 2017. Accessed February 21, 2018

4. Healy MP. The Marfan Blog. Physical Therapy: Myths and Facts. Published September 29, 2017. Accessed February 21, 2018.

5. Clifton DW. Physical Therapy: Ten Myths and Realities. Physical Therapy: Ten Myths and Realities. Published April 29, 2016. Accessed February 21, 2018.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *