Timing of Physical Therapy and Patient Outcomes

Currently in the United States the majority of citizens can access their Physical Therapist without a prescription from their physician.  As shown in the map above, arbitrary restrictions on this access has been put in place through state legislatures with strong influences from special interest groups.  In Colorado, patients can access their Physical Therapist without restriction allowing them to enjoy the improved outcomes and decreased cost associated with this healthcare pathway.  On average these patients will save $1000 per episode of care and avoid the unnecessary and high risk pathway including medications, procedures, and surgery.  In addition to these benefits, research is now highlighting how this pathway can improve outcomes for patients with musculoskeletal problems.    

The majority of the musculoskeletal aches and pains are best treated early allowing the Physical Therapist to maximize outcomes in fewer visits.  A recent review article in the Journal of Sports and Orthopedic Physical Therapy highlights the importance of early vs. late access to Physical Therapy services (Ojha et al. 2016).  The authors reviewed 14 research articles to examine the impact of early Physical Therapy on health care outcomes.  Consistent with prior business and research articles, early Physical Therapy was associated with decreased costs and future health care utilization.  Patients who receive early Physical Therapy are likely to require fewer physician visits and avoid unnecessary and costly interventions including surgery.  

Patients are encouraged to round out their health care team of a physician and dentist by adding a Physical Therapist.  Seek out a local, knowledgeable Physical Therapist (early) for advice, questions, and treatment of your next ache or pain.