The answer to this question will vary depending on the state you live in. Many states have a provision called “direct access.” In a state with direct access, patients can be seen by a PT without a doctor’s referral. Sometimes there are limits on how long a patient can be treated for before needing a referral and sometimes this is unlimited.
To find out what the direct access laws are in your state you can visit this link: http://www.apta.org/StateIssues/DirectAccess/FAQs/ . Keep in mind that even in a state with direct access, specific physical therapy practices may still require a referral or your insurance may still require a referral for reimbursement, so this is important to know when you schedule an appointment. It is also important to have open communication with all of your medical providers, so even if you don’t need a referral it would be good to let your PCP or surgeon know that you are planning on scheduling an appointment with a PT in case there is anything important for the team to share.