Studies have shown that for patients suffering from low back pain (LBP), starting physical therapy quickly can improve overall outcomes and dramatically reduce the expenses associated with treatment. Attendance to physical therapy should ideally occur within fourteen days from the onset of pain. Initiating physical therapy within two weeks has been associated with reduced likelihood of surgery or spinal injections, and fewer physician visits. Early physical therapy has also been shown to minimize the need for advanced imaging (i.e., MRI, CT scans), and help avoid the use of opioid pain medications. In addition to improving outcomes (e.g., getting patients better), this has resulted in an average costs savings of nearly $3,000 per patient when compared to those who delay physical therapy for more than fourteen days.
Prescribed physical therapy should adhere to current evidence-based guidelines such as movement-based activities, which match specific interventions to patients with particular clinical characteristics, as well as patient education, and occasionally spinal manipulation. Such evidence-based intervention have been shown to yield superior patient outcomes when compared to lesser supported interventions, such as hot packs, ultrasound, and soft tissue massage, which typically only provide short term relief.
Other passive interventions (i.e., spinal injections and/or prescription medications) can lead to decreased patient optimism for recovery, and a decreased sense of control over their symptoms. Several studies have even found that providing information on MRI results to patients with acute LBP diminishes their sense of well-being. As an alternative, participating in active, movement-based physical therapy helps patients foster a greater sense of self-reliance, and improves their confidence and belief that they are going to get better.
Don’t let your acute episode of low back pain become chronic. Contact our office today to schedule an appointment.
Fritz JM et al. Primary Care Referral of Patients with Low Back Pain to Physical Therapy. Impact on Future Health Care Utilization and Costs. Spine. December 1, 2012. Vol. 37. No. 25. p. 2114-2121.