Which Doctor Should I See?

More and more people are heading right to specialists to fix their ailments.  In the past it had been you started with your primary care physician and then they sent you to the appropriate specialists.  But one of the good things that has happened in health care in the last few years is that most insurance companies have allowed you to go directly to the specialist of your choice, making access to healthcare and treat more cost effective and less time consuming.  By cutting out the initial trip to the primary care doctor you can start having the proper specialist look at your issues right away.  But which one should you go see?

Primary Care Doctor

You start here if you have no idea where else to go.  If you have signs and symptoms that are not muscle or joint. If you have a cold or the flu. If you need a prescription or think you have something like diabetes or a heart issue. These doctors are the ones that understand these things and can either write you a prescription or send you to the right specialist.

You do not go see your primary care doctor for joint and muscle pain, like back pain, neck pain, hip pain, knee pain, elbow pain.  While they can look at these areas the most, they will do is give you some pills to take which usually are not effective and they do not fix the problem and then they will refer you elsewhere.


Chiropractors are experts in treating neck and back pain. Especially pain that happens overnight, where you feel ‘stuck’ and cannot turn your head or back.

Primary Care Physicians

Primary Care Doctors are a great first step if you have no idea where to go. These are also your go to when you have the flu or some type of internal pain.  They are not the best when you have muscle or joint pain. They will refer you out or just offer you pills to mask the pain.

They can provide prescriptions and sometimes will do X-Rays (although many have gotten away from this). They are a great point of contact to have, and you should see your primary care doctor on a regular basis to get a physical to get height, weight, and blood work as a preventative measure.

Orthopedic Surgeons

I am always surprised when people come to me and say that they went to the orthopedic surgeon and all they wanted to do was operate.  My answer is, well it is in their name, they are orthopedic surgeons, surgery is what they do. Sometimes when surgery is not necessary the orthopedic surgeon will refer to more conservative measures, like physical therapy.

Going to an orthopedic surgeon can get you an MRI or some more detailed imaging studies to determine the best course of action (this is also dependent on your insurance – some insurance companies are requiring physical therapy before an MRI).

Doctor of Osteopathy

These types of doctors are usually found practicing in primary care offices or in orthopedic surgeons’ offices, when surgery is not an option, the orthopedic surgeon may have you start by seeing a Doctor of Osteopathy to determine the best course of action.

Doctors of Osteopathy are more trained in manual techniques. They are taught more hands on techniques to aid your pain. While insurance has limited and dictated the limited number of hands on that Doctors of Osteopathy can do there are still some that will treat with their hands and offer alternative approaches to pills.


These doctors specialize in the foot.  If you have an issue of the foot, whether it be pain or a bunion or a toenail issue, these are your doctors.  Starting here when you have a foot issue can save you a lot of time and money not having to go through several other doctors. They can write prescriptions, do surgery, and fit orthotics or they can refer you to other doctors that would be better suited to what you have going on.

Physical Therapy

This is probably the most often misunderstood profession.  Many people think there needs to be a catastrophic accident to need physical therapy.  This is not true.  Physical therapists are the experts of the musculoskeletal system. They can treat and diagnose neck pain, back pain, knee pain, hip pain, shoulder pain, ankle pain, and so on.  Anything to do with joint or muscle a physical therapy can help.

Physical therapists can provide hands on therapy that will allow for joints and muscles to function pain free and will be able to give exercises that will allow the joints and muscles to stay healthy and continue to operate pain free.

Physical therapists should be your first step for any muscle or joint pain. If you are not appropriate for physical therapy, they are also able to send you to the next step.  Therefore, you save time and money starting with physical therapy.

This is just meant to be a broad overview of some of the doctors that are commonly treating everyday problems. You need to check with your insurance company to be sure that you can see certain doctors with out referrals and without getting approval from the insurance company first.

This broad overview does in no way give an extensive explanation of what each profession does. And yes, as in any profession there are good and bad experiences to be had depending on the provider that you see.

If you or someone you know is suffering from pain and wants a FREE consultation with a Doctor of Physical Therapy, call our office at 215-997-9898 or click here and enter your information and we will be in touch!


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We Have an Immediate Opening for a Physical Therapist in Harleysville. Resumes Can Be Sent to linda@totalperformancept.com

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