I have always been asked by patients questions such as:
"Shall I come to see you (as a physiotherapist), or shall I first see my GP?"
"Shall I see you (a physiotherapist) or a Chiropractic/Osteopath/Massage Therapist/Occupational Therapist/Acupuncturist/Other Practitioner?"
"What can you do for me?"
"Can you tell me when can I return to play soccer/to running/to walking without a walking aid/return to my work duties/other participations?"
We all wish to receive answers from our medical and allied health providers and as in all cases, the answer is not always immediate. I mean, when you take your car for a service, you don't know what/if you need to fix it, not at least until they run a test on it. Then, they will try their solutions and check costs for parts if needed to replace and the time spent on it and calculated into your invoice will be according to the time spend on the job they need to do, so even the total price of the service won't be given immediately.
The only thing we know for sure is the relative time it takes for different tissues to recover.
A fracture normally takes 8 (6-12) weeks to reconstruct if kept safe and immobilized, then a ligament- about 6 weeks, a cartilage 6-8 weeks and a muscle 1-3 days if treated with rest, walking aid and any other crucial treatment required for that part of the body to allow a healing process to occur.
Then you need to consider other relevant components of recovery speed, such as:
1) Internal aspects : age, comorbidities (other health conditions), physical, mental and cognitive disorders/state, gender, self expectations and self believes etc.
as well as:
2) External/environmental aspects including: Return to work urgency, income obligations, being dependent on others, attending others who require your assistance etc.
Assuming you have found a good and reliable therapist, you need to know- the outcomes of your recovery plan will rely a lot on your active role in your recovery plan. If you are told to avoid activities, apply ice, exercise or use a mobility aid, you should demand explanation if you are not sure about them, and once you understand the reasons for those instructions, then, if all is clear, do as required so you can give yourself the best chance for a good recovery outcomes. By understanding and feeling comfortable with your treatment plan narrowing stress level and trusting the recovery plan, the fastest and most efficient your recovery will be.
As for who you go see first, I would suggest... if you are uncertain- visit your GP first to get a referral. Friends and family, though keen to help and advise you, they do not have the professional skills and experience as health professionals do and they can only rely on their own experiences, but there's a great chance they will be mistaken about your case. Each of us has a unique body, with unique experiences and history of injuries and conditions. Our sensation thresholds and symptoms conception can differ and reflect different conditions, therefore, we need objective measures and tests in order to know what is actually the source of our symptoms.
If you are not sure:
1) Ask your GP which clinician you need to see and what tests you need go through.
2) See the clinician you have been referred to and see if they are giving you efficient advice:
You should expect them to:
a. Ask you to fill in an initial consent form with your medical conditions and your signature for consent to treatment (with all the risks and fees obligations and such).
b. Take your medical history and any information you can give them about the current condition you seek help for.
c. Then they will asses your body posture, movement and your body parts reactions to certain tests.
d. They will then explain their findings
d. Set expectations for treatment outcomes: time frames, short and long term milestones of recovery progress and goals settings.
e. You should then be given an initial treatment (manual treatment such as massage, advise, refer for scan, medical certificate and other immediate actions) and home a protocol for self management plan till next appointment.
f. You should have a say at all times: ask any question, refuse to anything you don't agree with or don't feel comfortable with and even ask for a video of the exercises to follow up at home. You won't always get what you want or looking for, but at all times you should express any relevant thoughts/concerns/questions.
g. Book your next appointment if you feel you have found someone you trust as to follow up your recovery plan. If you don't trust them, it is most likely that you don't benefit from their service.
This process will be easier when you are more experienced with physiotherapy treatment, but now that you've read about the process, even if you are not experienced, you should have a better idea of how to plan and what to expect when seeking a solution for a physical injury/condition.