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Do You Need a Doctor’s Note for Physiotherapy Referral in Alberta?

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a man lies on a table with an arm behind his back. a physiotherapist presses on his shouler

Physiotherapy is a common practice in the sports world. However, it’s not only for athletes or those with sports injuries. Most other people can benefit from this non-invasive treatment for all sorts of injuries and for pain management, mitigation, and relief.

Like many other paramedical services, such as massage therapy or chiropractic care, a person may wonder if they need to see their family doctor first for a referral. This article explains the answer to that and looks at what a physiotherapist does.

Do You Need a Referral for Physiotherapy in Alberta?

Getting a referral can sometimes be a pain in the butt, especially if you have a serious or new issue that needs to be addressed quickly. Fortunately, physiotherapists are considered primary caregivers in Alberta. As such, they don’t require referrals. In addition, many physiotherapy clinics are private, which is another reason that you don’t typically need a referral.

With that said, some non-private clinics may need a referral to access the funding for their services. Additionally, some extended health benefits plans through an employer or otherwise may require a doctor’s note before paying for the therapy.

Is Physiotherapy Covered Under Alberta Health Services?

If the clinic you are seeing is private, there is little chance that Alberta Health Services (AHS) will cover it. However, some government-funded or contracted clinics with AHS will cover certain things without a referral.

Needs for physiotherapy that are covered under AHS include:

  • Recent fractures
  • Orthopedic surgeries
  • Hip and knee replacements 

What Is a Physiotherapist?

Injury or illness can often lead to limited mobility, ongoing pain, or higher chances of re-injury. This is where a physiotherapist comes in. They are highly trained professionals who are experts in the body and its muscular structure.

Many physiotherapists take a holistic or full-body approach to help with mobility and healing. In addition to the physical, they also account for your mental, emotional, and social well-being. Through this approach, the physiotherapist gives you the best chance at increasing your quality of life.

Types of Physiotherapy Activities

Physiotherapy is a fairly broad term encompassing various techniques and treatments. Some common things that a physiotherapist will do with their patients include:

  • Various exercises to increase range of motion, mobility, endurance and strength 
  • Postural correction to improve any issues with alignment 
  • Deep-tissue massage
  • Muscle stimulation 
  • Joint manipulation or mobilization 
  • Assistance with stretching and mobility  
  • Modalities or tools for decreasing pain and inflammation

In addition to these things, a good physiotherapist will educate you. For example, they may teach you about the anatomy and physiology behind your injury or pain, as well as demonstrate how to perform stretches or exercises at home to maintain the results you’re getting through therapy.

Branches of Physiotherapy

Along with many different techniques and exercises a physiotherapist may do with their patients, a few branches of physiotherapy deal with specific patients or issues. These branches include:

  • Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy: This branch deals with any issues related to the musculoskeletal system, such as bones, joints, tendons, muscles, etc. It’s used to treat mobility problems, chronic pain, and injury.
  • Pediatric Physiotherapy: If a child suffers from coordination, balance, or flexibility problems, a specialized pediatric physiotherapist may be a good solution.
  • Geriatric Physiotherapy: Aging adults suffering from age-related mobility issues will benefit from this branch of physiotherapy.
  • Neurological Physiotherapy: This branch deals with things that affect the nervous system. So, patients with spinal injuries, head injuries, Concussions, Parkinson’s disease, etc., may be candidates for this type of physiotherapy.
  • Sports Physiotherapy: Sports injuries—even minor ones—can prevent athletes from performing at their peak. In addition to healing and improving mobility, this type of physiotherapy is focused on preventing future injury. 
a physiotherapist bends the leg of a woman lying on her back to stretch her leg

What Does the Average Physiotherapy Plan of Care Look Like?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to a physio treatment plan of care because it’s such a highly customized form of treatment. However, there are a few different things that are fairly standard across the board:

Initial assessment with tests

During the first appointment, your therapist will discuss your injury and ask you many questions about it, as well as try to understand your past medical history. They will also discuss what you want out of therapy—healing? Pain management? Increased mobility? These answers will then be used to come up with goals for your plan of care. 

Then they will perform a few tests to give them a baseline of your posture, alignment, movement, mobility, and strength to enable them to recommend appropriate treatment.

Treatment Plan

Once the therapist knows your injury and sees what you can and cannot do, they can recommend specific treatments to help your body do what it needs to do. Sometimes the physiotherapist will provide you with a written treatment plan, while others will give it to you verbally.

Some things a typical treatment plan includes are:

  • Stretches, mobility and strengthening exercises for at home
  • Postural correction and techniques to improve alignment and gait patterns 
  • Instructions for cold and/or heat
  • Bracing, splinting, or compression 
  • Direction to get other therapies, such as massage, acupuncture, chiropractic, traction, low-level laser treatment, etc.
  • Instruction on follow-up appointments

Booking an Appointment With a Physiotherapist

If you’ve been injured or suffer from mobility issues or weakness, don’t suffer in silence. Give us a shout at Running Shoe Restorative Healthcare. You don’t need a doctor’s referral to book an appointment, and our professional staff is happy to answer all your questions to ensure you get the help you need.

Written by Shaheeza Haji

Shaheeza Haji graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Alberta in 2009, followed by a Master of Physiotherapy from the University of Western Ontario in 2011. Being a staunch believer in “exercise is medicine” she attained her Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist status though the National Strength and Conditioning Association in 2013. At the end of that same year, Shaheeza was involved in a major life-altering electrocution incident whereby she sustained a number of injuries which required surgery and years of rehabilitation. One of these injuries was a traumatic brain injury; it is thought that the electrical current exploded within the confined space of her skull, which for lack of better terminology was coined by her medical team as an “electrical concussion.” This lead to her becoming certified in the treatment and management of Concussions in 2018. Also in 2018, Shaheeza began instructing at CDI college, heading up the Rehabilitation Therapy Assistant Diploma Program. Today, Shaheeza combines her love of teaching, her passion of concussion research, and the empathy & experience from her own injury to help those with acute and chronic concussions. Shaheeza also has a drive for entrepreneurship, being the CEO of Running Shoe Inc., directing both Running Shoe Restorative Healthcare and the Calgary Concussion Centre.
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