Individualized Physical Therapy Saves Money Compared to Usual Care for Low Back Pain

As healthcare costs continue to rise, all stakeholders (patients, providers, and payers) are looking for ways to reduce costs associated with common conditions.  In our field, we see patients given generic, one size fits all exercise programs for common conditions including low back pain.  Our previous post highlights the limitations of this approach including providing incorrect, inadequate, and sometimes harmful exercises to patients without a proper Physical Therapy examination first.  In addition, patients provided these incomplete, generic exercise programs will often spend additional healthcare resources in the coming months looking for relief of their symptoms.  

A recent research article in the journal Spine compared the effectiveness of individualized Physical Therapy services to guideline based advice for patients with low back pain. (Hahne et al. 2016).  300 patients were randomized to one of the two groups then were followed for 1 year to determine the effectiveness and cost of each treatment group.  Patients treated with Physical Therapy reported higher levels of health benefits at a lower cost than the guidelines group.  Specifically, patients missed fewer work days at a savings of close to $2,000 per worker.  This study adds to the existing data on the importance of individualized Physical Therapy for patients with low back pain.