Bone and Joint Institute Rehab Services Direct Access Physical Therapy

Direct Access Physical Therapy Explained by Andrea Pierce, PT

Originally posted on

Going to physical therapy historically required patients to visit their primary care provider, specialist, or an urgent care clinic to obtain a referral. With certain injuries and diagnoses, it may be appropriate to skip these additional steps prior to seeing a physical therapist. This can lead to faster treatment time, quicker recovery, and potentially saving some health care dollars. 

Today, you can utilize direct access to physical therapy at Bone and Joint Institute of Tennessee without needing a referral. Just be sure to check with your insurance company first. While direct access is more accessible today, some insurance companies do require a referral to cover the service. 
Andrea Pierce, PT, has been an outpatient physical therapist for 23 years and has been with Bone and Joint Institute for more than two years now. She shared all about direct access physical therapy at Bone and Joint Institute’s Franklin, Brentwood, Nolensville and Thompson’s Station locations and what you can expect when using it:

What is Direct Access Physical Therapy?

Direct access physical therapy puts the patient in control of when to seek help from a physical therapist. They don’t have to go to a physician first for a referral, unless their health insurance requires a referral.

What Are Some Benefits of Direct Access Physical Therapy?

Putting patients in charge of when they start physical therapy without the need to see a physician first has many great benefits:

• It can potentially lower medical costs because a skilled therapist can carry out individualized treatment and rule out the need for an X-ray or other diagnostic testing, saving you a trip to the physician. Of course, if your physical therapist identifies a need for further testing, they can often refer you to the most appropriate healthcare provider for your diagnosis.

• It’s less time consuming because you can schedule a visit with the therapist right away instead of waiting to see a doctor, then still waiting after that visit to get on the schedule with a physical therapist.

• Patients can experience faster results because they are getting in to see their therapist sooner. Bone and Joint Institute can start care immediately during the initial appointment – You’ll go home with exercises and stretches to begin right away. 

• Bone and Joint Institute still coordinates care with orthopaedic specialists. If you do not start feeling better within six visits or 15 calendar days, the physical therapist will still recommend you see a doctor and point you in the right direction, taking the guesswork out of the equation for you. But if you are feeling better, you can continue therapy.

What Ailments Can Direct Access Physical Therapy Be Good For?

Direct access physical therapy is really for anyone experiencing bone or joint pain within the state of Tennessee. Some examples of reasons patients schedule direct access physical therapy include:

• Tendonitis

• Ankle sprains

• Rotator cuff issues

• Knee, back or neck pain

While direct access gives you control over when you visit a therapist, remember that an appointment is to address and focus on one issue at a time.

If during the initial evaluation your physical therapist suspects that something else might be in play or that the patient needs further evaluation before beginning care, they might still refer the patient to an orthopaedic specialist before beginning treatment. 

How Can Patients Benefit from Comprehensive Care at Bone and Joint Institute?

Bone and Joint Institute offers comprehensive care from evaluation to surgery and then to physical therapy. You’ll find the following services all within one easy-to-navigate campus:

• Outpatient surgical center

• CT scan


• Orthopaedic Physicians, including a variety of experts in many subspecialties

• Physical therapy

• Injections for spine discomfort

• Ultrasound-guided diagnostic testing

• Cast technicians

• X-ray

• Durable medical equipment (DME), including crutches, braces and walkers

All providers are in one place, which benefits patients so they don’t have to call their surgeon or specialist for information. The physical therapist has all of the information related to the patient’s care, or they can send a message directly to the surgeon or treating doctor to learn more about a patient and their needs.

Bone and Joint Institute tries to coordinate physical therapy and doctor appointments to make things easier for patients. If a patient needs a return appointment, in-house schedulers make every attempt to set up a physical therapy appointment before they see the doctor so that they can take updated measurements prior to the patient going straight to the doctor. 

With this, patients don’t have to make another visit. Likewise, in-house surgery schedulers try to schedule follow-up appointments before the patient’s surgery so they don’t have to worry about that on the day of surgery. Plus, patients find it easy to reschedule appointments if needed without lengthy wait periods.

To learn more about direct access physical therapy or for more about Bone and Joint Rehabilitation Services, including where we offer physical therapy across Middle Tennessee, visit our website at To schedule an appointment with Andrea Pierce or a therapist near you, call (615) 791-2640.