One of the great things about physical therapy in Minnesota is that you do not need a referral from a physician in order to seek out care and potentially have these services be partly or fully covered by your insurance provider. This allows you to head directly to the best provider for the care you need, and according to a new study, pursuing physical therapy may be the optimal treatment route if you find yourself dealing with acute or chronic low back pain.
Early PT Effective For Low Back Pain
According to research from the University of Pittsburgh and published in the journal Physical Therapy, patients who seek out physical therapy have better outcomes and shorter episodes of acute care for low back pain compared to other non-operative treatment options.
Researchers wanted to get a better understanding of the most effective forms of treatment for patients suffering from episodes of low back pain. While clinical guidelines typically recommend nonpharmacologic and nonoperative treatments, many patients who head to their primary care physician for low back pain treatment are treated with opioids, injections or even referred to a specialist for imaging and surgery. All of these treatments lead to increased patient costs, and they typically aren’t the most effective treatment option.
“Back and neck pain now account for the largest portion of healthcare spending in the U.S., followed by closely by other musculoskeletal conditions,” said study lead author Christopher Bise, Ph.D., UPMC physical therapist and assistant professor at Pittsburgh’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences. “Much of that spending does little to contribute to overall patient wellness.
For the study, researchers combed through nearly 30,000 patient records from 2015 to 2018 in order to see how patients with episodes of low back pain were treated. They found that patients who sought speciality care like rheumatology, physiatry and pain management were in pain for nearly twice as long as those who first went to a physical therapist, chiropractor or emergency department. And while emergency department care proved effective, patients who went to the ED paid nearly twice as much as those who sought physical therapy or chiropractic care first. More than half of patients who went to the emergency room also filled a prescription for opioids compared to just 11 percent for people who pursued physical therapy or chiropractic management.
Dr. Bise concluded by saying that physical therapy should become the standard first line of treatment for patients experiencing episodes of low back pain.
“How do we get patients to the provider who can end the episode more quickly?” Bise asked. “Why aren’t physical therapists the primary musculoskeletal provider? Why aren’t we embedded in emergency departments? There are scattered models, but it hasn’t taken hold widely.”
As you can see, not only is physical therapy an effective treatment plan for episodes of low back pain, but it can also help to keep costs manageable. So instead of wasting valuable time and money pursuing less effective methods, connect with a physical therapist if you’re dealing with frequent or disruptive episodes of low back pain. For more information, or to set up an appointment, connect with the team at OrthoRehab Specialists today at (612) 339-2041.