Physical therapy (Physiotherapy)

The physical therapist is a health care professional that treats injuries, disabilities and illnesses. To do so, depending on the needs of the patient, the therapist uses different exercises, movements and/or manual therapy. At the same time the physiotherapist is advising and educating the patient. By doing so, they help prevent further damage and illness, contribute in pain management and keep a close eye on the patient’s general health. How and when can you visit a physical therapist in the Netherlands? What types of physical therapy exist? And are the costs covered by Dutch health insurance?

Access to the physiotherapist in the Netherlands

Since 2006 it is not necessary anymore to visit your general practitioner first in order to be able to visit the physiotherapist. You can directly make an appointment with a physical therapist in your neighborhood without the need of a referral from your doctor. If you skip a visit to your general practitioner, we can still recommend informing your general practitioner of your visits to the physical therapist.

Treatment & types of physical therapy

The physical therapist, after making a diagnosis and screening of your complaints, will create a treatment plan. Together with your physical therapist you will start working through it. There are different types of physiotherapy, depending on your personal needs.

  • General physiotherapy: helps treat and prevent limitations in movement caused by injuries or illness. The general physical therapist also focusses on breathing problems, reduction of muscle power and treatment of swellings and pain.
  • Sports physiotherapy: this specialist focusses on (professional) sport injuries and rehabilitation.
  • Manual physiotherapy: a manual physical therapist helps people improve their posture and movements, focussing on spine problems and joints in arms and legs.
  • Occupational physiotherapy: treatment of physical complaints that result from your work activities or workspace and rehabilitation.
  • Pelvic physical therapist: this specialist treats pelvic problems, such as complaints in the lower back, pelvis, pelvic floor and abdomen.
  • Oedema physiotherapist: therapy is focussed on treatment of edema complaints, the atypical accumulation of fluids in the human body.
  • Psychosomatic physical therapist: in some cases, physical complaints do not have a clear cause. These complaints can be related to stress and will be investigated together with your therapist.
  • Orofacial or jaw physiotherapist: treatment of problems with joints and muscles in the neck and head area as well as the jaw.
  • Dry needling: this type of physiotherapy resembles acupuncture. Using thin needles muscle hardenings and nodes are pinched to improve flexibility.
  • Cardiovascular physical therapist: this specialist focusses on patients with respiratory and pulmonary illnesses. Treatment aims to improve the overall condition of the patient, also using breathing exercises.
  • Oncology physiotherapist: complaints caused by cancer (treatment) are treated by the oncology physical therapist. Depending on the specific needs of the patient, reduction of muscle power, body pain, tensions and respiratory problems are treated.

Is physical therapy covered by Dutch health insurance?

The next question is: are all the above-mentioned types of physical therapy covered by the Dutch basic health care insurance? The general rule is that physiotherapy is not covered by Dutch basic health insurance, unless:

  • You are under 18 years old: 9 treatments are covered. If these 9 treatments do not have the desired effect, another 9 treatments might be covered. No deductible excess applies.
  • You have a chronic condition: you have to pay the first 20 treatments yourself. From the 21st treatment your basic health care insurance will cover the costs. The list of chronic conditions can be found here. Deductible excess applies.

Supplementary health insurance

If you are looking for coverage of physiotherapy costs in most cases it’s necessary to take out supplementary health insurance. There are a few things to take into account:

  • Depending on the health insurance company, you can choose for a separate physical therapy module (covering a certain amount of treatments) or a complete plan. A plan also contains coverage for other forms of care, for example birth control or coverage for glasses and/or lenses. Only choose a plan if you need coverage for other forms of care.
  • The amount of care desired: you can choose for a certain amount of treatments (for example 6, 9 or 12 a year) or some insurance companies provide a maximum budget you can spend on physiotherapy (for example €250 a year).
  • Check if your insurance company works with contracted health care providers: in that case, you only get 100% coverage of the costs if you go to these health care providers.