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North Alabama patients and physical therapists are pushing for law change

Alabama law limits physical therapists from providing treatment without a doctor referral or prescription.

Posted: Nov 12, 2019 7:30 PM

Patients and physical therapists are pushing for change to make it easier for you to get help when you need it. 

Right now, you can’t go for PT without a doctor’s referral and that can add days or weeks before getting treatment.

"I woke up in the middle of the night, I literally could not move my leg and felt like someone was holding onto a nerve in my hip and it was excruciating pain," says Samantha Mimna, a physical therapy patient.

But Mimna couldn't walk into a physical therapist's office the next morning for help. Alabama law forces you to see a doctor for treatment.

You can't just walk into a physical therapy clinic and get help, even if you're willing to pay out of pocket.

"Knowing though it would be a couple of days and how am I going to manage the next couple of days before I can get true relief on my leg," she adds.

Alabama is one of only 3 states with limited access for patients. All but Alabama, Missouri and Mississippi let you go directly for treatment if you're willing to pay out of pocket.

Tim Melson is a doctor and state senator from Florence. He fought the bill earlier this year. He says the restriction is for your own good because physical therapists may or may not know much about medicine.

"It's almost like going to a pharmacist and getting a prescription without seeing a doctor...you know you gotta know what you're treating" says Melson.

Andrea Johnson is a physical threapist and disagrees. She even linked states limiting patient access to opioid use.

According to the Alabama Chapter of American Physical Therapy Association, Alabama, Missouri and Mississippi all have high opioid abuse numbers.

"There's a lot of studies that show that early intervention by physical therapists reduces your chances of being put on opioids", says Johnson.

Mimna hasn't gone to that length to treat her pain, but thinks it's important patients can get help quickly.

"I think it needs to be changed to help people get pain free faster. you know, there's no reason. I don't understand the reasoning of making someone wait when there's a solution," adds Mimna. 

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