Physical therapy is a standard rehabilitation service to help manage pain, improve mobility, and increase strength. You might be referred to a physical therapist for chronic pain management, after an injury, after surgery, or for a neurological disorder. Without insurance, a single physical therapy session can cost you up to $350.
Physical therapy is often non-negotiable depending on the reason you are going, so to save money on healthcare expenses, many turn to other ways to reduce spending. Mira can save you money on various healthcare services through a monthly membership to access affordable urgent care services, lab tests, and discounted prescription drugs for only $45 per month.
How Much Physical Therapy Costs Without Insurance in 2021
Paying for physical therapy without insurance is called an “out-of-pocket” expense. This means that you pay for it directly. Physical therapy starts with a consultation session where the therapist will assess your condition to construct the best plan for your needs. The physical therapist will give you tests to see how well you can walk, climb steps, assess your balance, and others depending on your condition. The first session is more expensive than a typical session, but the physical therapy costs $150 per session on average without insurance.
Physical therapy plans will consist of strength, balance, and sometimes aerobic exercises. After your physical therapist teaches you the basics of your injury and rehabs it, they often advise you to continue the activities at home. To do this, there are additional costs associated with the equipment you might need.
Cost of Basic Physical Therapy Equipment
|Equipment Type||The approximate cost (varies by brand/type)|
|Light dumbbell set||$30-$40|
How to Lower Physical Therapy Costs
Doctors and surgeons refer patients to physical therapy, and often it is non-negotiable. Neurological ailments and spinal cord injuries require hands-on, extensive physical therapy. Anil Dhan, clinic site manager for the Physical Therapy department at the Rothman Orthopaedic Institute, relates, “Patients often have large copays, but in the context of their cable bill, or cell phone bill, it’s a trivial amount to learn how to walk again.” On the other hand, for orthopedic rehabilitation, there are ways to reduce the amount you spend.
Reduce Frequency of Visits
One way to reduce costs is to do as much physical therapy on your own time as the therapist allows to facilitate in-person sessions. “Patients can contain costs by doing some PT on their own, getting the therapist to give them an extensive amount of exercises to do at home. (Referring doctors) are conditioned to write for PT 3 times per week for 4 to 6 weeks. Most patients don't need that. 1-2 times per week for a few weeks for nonsurgical stuff is pretty standard now.” Dhan adds. It is vital to communicate with your therapist and the prescribing doctor to ensure you get the care you need.
Virtual Physical Therapy
Telehealth services are becoming more available for many different types of care, including physical therapy. The American Physical Therapy Association states, “Telehealth provided by PTs and PTAs has been proven to produce good outcomes with little to no patient risk. Members of the physical therapy profession are trained to understand when telehealth is appropriate, and the technologies to support telehealth at both the patient and provider ends are easy to acquire.”
Virtual physical therapy costs less than half of in-person physical therapy, usually a typical copay. Remote rehab sessions have been proven effective, especially for Veterans who may not travel to a clinic and people who live in rural areas. Virtual physical therapy costs less, saves travel time, and also reduces exposure to COVID-19.
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Where to Find Virtual PT
Below is a list of some popular options for virtual physical therapy:
- ATI Physical Therapy: offers physical therapy, workers’ comp rehab, sports medicine, hand therapy, and women’s health services
- Athletico Physical Therapy: no prescription necessary, and a free assessment
- Virtual Physical Therapists: $89 per session, specializes in back pain
- Virtual PT NYC: provides a plethora of services for seniors, athletes, and women
Use an FSA or HSA
Physical Therapy is eligible for reimbursement from flexible spending accounts (FSA), health savings accounts (HSA), and health reimbursement accounts (HRA). While you will pay for physical therapy upfront, you can submit a claim to your account to pay tax-free for the sessions you use.
Buy a Package of Sessions
Many physical therapy practices offer deals on packages of sessions because it is unlikely you will only need to go one time. You can also inquire about a discount if you pay for the bill in cash or negotiate your deal if it is a private practice.
Reasons to go to Physical Therapy.
A doctor or surgeon can refer you to physical therapy for a variety of reasons. It can be for musculoskeletal or neurological rehabilitation. The main goals of physical therapy are to restore joints and muscles' function and improve mobility, flexibility, posture, circulation, and balance. Reasons you may need to go to physical therapy include:
- After giving birth
- Back strain
- Brain injuries
- Broken bone recovery
- Post-surgical, two will rehabilitation
- Sports injury
Types of Physical Therapy
As mentioned, people need physical therapy for a variety of reasons. There are 18 total areas of specialty, but the type of physical therapy you need often falls under one of five specialties, described below:
- Orthopedic: This type of physical therapy is usually in an outpatient setting for people who have sustained an injury to the musculoskeletal system. These include sprains, fractures, and conditions such as tendonitis. Patients recovering from orthopedic surgery are also referred to this type of physical therapy.
- Geriatric: Geriatric physical therapy is focused on balance, posture, and total body strength for older persons focus on experiencing normal aging. Common conditions helped through geriatric physical therapy are arthritis, osteoporosis, Alzheimer's disease, and hip replacement.
- Neurological: For individuals with neurological complications such as ALS, brain injury, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, spinal cord injury, and stroke, physical therapists help improve functioning. Common problems of patients with neurological disorders include paralysis, vision impairment, poor balance, and difficulty walking.
- Cardiovascular and pulmonary rehabilitation: Rehabilitation of the heart involves a focus on circulation and endurance. Individuals who have had heart surgery or a heart attack are referred to a physical therapist for a cardiac rehabilitation plan.
- Pediatric: Pediatric physical therapy is helpful for children with development complications and early diagnosis of conditions concerning muscles, bones, and joints.
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Physical Therapy Costs Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
There are many types of physical therapy to treat a variety of conditions. Below we answer some general questions about physical therapy costs and how to get the care you need.
How can I save on physical therapy costs?
One way to save on your physical therapy costs is to reduce the frequency of sessions. Your doctor may have overestimated the frequency of sessions needed before a PT assessed you. Establish goals with your physical therapist and ensure you are discharged when those are reached instead of the prescription length. Additionally, you can seek virtual physical therapy or negotiate with your provider for a reduced fee in addition to using an FSA or HSA to cover your expenses.
Where can I get physical therapy?
Aside from private practices and virtual physical therapy, many health facilities have physical therapists on staff. Some examples of where you may receive PT are:
- Outpatient clinics
- Sports medicine centers
- Nursing homes
- Schools or colleges
What do I look for in a physical therapist?
The New York Times published a piece this week answering this question. Experts suggest deciding if the physical therapist is right for you during the consultation. Ideally, you want a PT who is up to date on best practices and the current science behind rehabilitation. You also want someone who will give you the time you deserve to properly diagnose and assess your condition to develop the best course of action. Other qualities to look for in a therapist include empathy, honesty, and understanding.
Physical therapy costs $150 per session on average. Multiply that by 2 times per week for 8 weeks, and that’s a total cost of $2,400 on average if you do not have insurance. Physical therapy can be necessary for a speedy recovery and can be very expensive without insurance.
If you find yourself spending more on healthcare than you would like, Mira is an alternative to health insurance to save money on other healthcare needs. Save on urgent care, prescription drugs, lab tests, and gym memberships today to maintain optimal health.
Alexis Bryan MPH, is a recent graduate of Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health. She is passionate about increasing access to care to improve health outcomes. Outside of work, she loves to travel, read, and pay too much attention to her plants.