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Doctors seem to be a common first port of call when a person injures themselves or requires management of pain. However, physiotherapists are first contact practitioners for musculoskeletal (muscle and joint) pain and injuries.

So, to answer the question – either is acceptable. For those of us who have been to a doctor and seen a physiotherapist for a musculoskeletal injury – often the experience can be quite different. The following will help answer some common questions…

Who is better equipped to diagnose and treat my injury?

Often both parties have an input into an injury but for different reasons and purposes. A physiotherapist working in a clinic or private practice is trained in the assessment, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of musculoskeletal pain and injuries. Physiotherapists treat a range of conditions including, but not limited to:

  • Neck and back pain
  • Headaches
  • Almost all joint pain (shoulder, elbow, knee, ankle…)
  • Vertigo and dizziness
  • Neurological conditions e.g. rehab after a stroke
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Experiencing joint pain and are considering surgery
  • Rehabilitation post-surgery
  • Sporting injuries
  • Issues regarding pain and exercise during and after pregnancy

Physiotherapists have extensive knowledge and skill in these areas. More time is allocated in your physio appointment for both diagnosis and treatment.

We take into account your lifestyle, activities and general health. With advice, education and specific exercises, a physio can show you how to best manage your pain and condition at home and work.

However, it may be best to see a GP if you are experiencing certain problems or symptoms such as, but not limited to:

  • Prescriptions for pain relief or other medications
  • Cold, flu or virus related muscle pain
  • Internal pain
  • Conditions not related to muscles and joint injuries

Do I need a referral to see a physiotherapist?

You do not require a referral from your GP to see a physio. Physiotherapists are “first contact” practitioners, qualified in assessing, diagnosing and treating musculoskeletal pain and conditions.

What if I require scans?

There are two options available to you. Both a GP and a physiotherapist can refer you for scans, although the rebates through Medicare differ. Your physio can either refer you directly for a scan, or send you to your GP to get a referral.

However, physiotherapists are able to determine and treat most musculoskeletal conditions and injuries using our knowledge and skills in diagnostic testing and assessment without needing a scan.

Who is better able to prescribe exercises?

Physiotherapists are exercise and movement specialists and are best suited for prescribing exercise to recover from pain and injury, improve wellbeing and function, and help with any weight loss goals.

Sarah Biermann – Physiotherapist