What does DIRECT ACCESS mean in terms of physical therapy? 

In short, it means YOU can receive treatment immediately for physical therapy by contacting your physical therapist first (‘directly’).  I often use this analogy when explaining how physical therapy services fit in to the direct access laws:  If wanting massage, we are accustomed to calling a massage therapist.  If we have tooth issues, we call the dentist.  If we want to start a fitness program, we call a fitness coach/trainer.  Physical therapists are experts in musculoskeletal pain or injury, so consider calling your PHYSICAL THERAPIST first!

Direct access varies by state.  Washington is open direct access meaning you can see your PT immediately.  A few insurance companies do require a referral from a physician (ie. Medicare).  Our staff can help provide information on whether that is the case for you.  Most insurance providers now are recognizing the benefits of direct access and these plans cover PT services.


One of the benefits of early intervention to an injury or painful syndrome is a quicker recovery!  We can’t change nature and the body’s physiology to necessarily ‘speed up’ the tissue healing process-some things just take time.  But most often you may not know what actions to take to provide the best healing strategy.  Should I rest this or stretch it?  Can I walk on my ankle or be on crutches?  One example is the common ankle sprain.  Research now shows that the worst thing you can do in many cases is be on crutches in a boot and off your foot for weeks.  PT’s are trained to guide you through the recovery process with treatments that are based on current best evidence and research.

Another benefit is the cost savings for the patient.  Copays and deductibles are getting higher every year.  There are cases where getting Xrays or MRI’s immediately makes sense in the acutely traumatic accident or injury, but often bypassing this step and treating conservatively is the ultimate answer.  Save yourself a $1,000 MRI cost and see your PT first.  PT’s constantly stay in communication with primary care physicians and if during the PT examination or treatment the findings or symptoms indicate further testing is necessary, our PT’s immediately refer you back to your doctor.


Our clinic offers a FREE 15-min consultation to help answer questions about whether PT is an appropriate option for you.  It certainly is helpful to do this in person so our clinicians can see the condition and do a screen to assess whether PT can help.  We also offer this service over the phone for Q and A, whichever suits you and your schedule best.  There is absolutely NO pressure to begin a therapy session beyond the consultation, but we will give you honest feedback on whether a course of therapy could help.  Approximately 30% of our clients are self-referred or access their PT directly with us.  Often those who’ve had PT here in the past just know if they ‘tweaked’ their neck or knee and it doesn’t resolve in a couple days, starting PT can help get things sorted out and on the right path.  People who have possibly only had PT in the past after a knee surgery or for some type of post-operative rehabilitation may not realize the benefits of physical therapy for MANY non-surgical injuries or situations.


The short answer-it depends.  Some clients will only need a visit or two to set them up with an independent home or gym program with occasional ‘tune ups’.  More involved cases or conditions may take several months.  Our average length of treatment per condition here is ~8 visits before goals are reached.  Often if we are not seeing significant change within 4-6 treatments, therapy may not be the most helpful option for the condition at the moment and we refer on to your primary care doctor or specialist for further testing. 

Conditions we often treat via DIRECT ACCESS may include:

  • Neck pain/headaches
  • Shoulder/arm pain
  • Patellar/knee pain
  • Achilles tendinopathy
  • Lower back pain/Sciatica
  • Muscle strain
  • Sports injuries
  • Balance deficits
  • Runners evaluation
  • Plantar fasciitis

If you have any questions please feel free to call our office at (360) 835-5349 or email at info@washougalsportandspine.com  and we will get back to you immediately!