Occupational physiotherapist’s self-referral service for musculoskeletal problems

What is it and how to get there?

An occupational physiotherapist’s self-referral service means that an employee can book an occupational physiotherapist’s appointment without a prior physician’s appointment and referral. Pihlajalinna Occupational Health Care has provided this service since 2017. The employee is directed to an occupational physiotherapist’s self-referral appointment through the Pihlajalinna Nurse Service after an assessment of the need for care. There are also other ways to see an occupational physiotherapist without a physician’s referral, for example, by booking an appointment online. The channels of seeking an occupational physiotherapist’s help vary depending on the organisation’s occupational health agreement.

Help for those who need it

The key principle of Pihlajalinna’s self-referral model is appropriateness. In practice, this means that, for example, an employee who suffers from backpain has a direct and timely access to a professional who can treat problems that fit the employee’s symptoms. In most musculoskeletal problems, an occupational physiotherapist is the most appropriate specialist to help. Sometimes musculoskeletal problems involve symptoms that indicate more serious diseases. In such cases, the employee should consult a physician.

The Pihlajalinna Nurse Service assesses the employee’s need for care and directs them to the occupational physiotherapist on self-referral if the employee’s symptoms do not necessitate a physician’s appointment. If the employee books an occupational physiotherapist’s appointment themselves, their symptoms are not assessed in advance. In that case, the occupational physiotherapist assesses the employee’s symptoms and refers them to a physician, if necessary. You can consult an occupational physiotherapist even if you are unsure whether they are the right specialist for you.

What is the benefit of the occupational physiotherapist’s self-referral service?

The purpose of the occupational physiotherapist’s self-referral service is to help the patient start their rehabilitation faster and improve their self-care agency. For the organisation, the self-referral service means more direct actions and, consequently, fewer unnecessary medical appointments, musculoskeletal problems, and subsequent absences from work – in other words, a higher capacity for work.

The occupational physiotherapist is specialised in musculoskeletal diseases and individual guidance to prevent future problems. They are also the occupational health team’s number-one expert at assessing the correlation between one’s workload and musculoskeletal problem. Sickness absences can often be replaced by temporary work arrangements. The occupational physiotherapist assesses the need for temporary work arrangements and, if necessary, prepares a work arrangement plan. If temporary work arrangements are out of the question, the occupational physiotherapist can recommend a sickness absence, provided that occupational health has agreed on the practicalities of such an arrangement with the client organisation.

Information is medicine also with musculoskeletal problems

One key element of the occupational physiotherapist’s self-referral service is to provide information and advice about the musculoskeletal problem in question. Typical questions from a person suffering from a musculoskeletal problem include: Is it serious? What causes the problem? Do I need to take time off from work? What can be done and what can I do myself? What am I allowed to do? At the occupational physiotherapist’s self-referral appointment, the employee receives answers to these questions and more.

For more information about the care pathway in musculoskeletal problems and the self-referral service, please contact your organisation’s designated occupational physiotherapist.


Lauri Raivo, Service Manager, Occupational Physiotherapy



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