Patients Who Seek Care from Physical Therapists Are Less Likely To Use Opiates

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Some of the highest quality Physical Therapy research details the effectiveness of our profession treating patients with neck pain.  Patients can expect an accelerated recovery with less short and long term pain if they see a Physical Therapist for their neck symptoms.  In addition, Physical Therapy interventions including manual therapy and exercise are about 1/3 the cost of seeing a primary care physician first for neck pain.  Recent research is also highlighting other important benefits of seeing a Physical Therapist first for neck pain.

Researchers from Duke University analyzed 1700 patients with neck pain to determine which interventions and providers they utilized during their course of care (Horn et al. Proceedings: Innovations, Quality, and Outcomes).  The authors reported patients chose to see either their Physical Therapist, primary care physician, specialist, or chiropractor as the first provider in their care.  Patients seen by a Physical Therapist first were less likely to receive opioid medication in the first year after the onset of their symptoms.  In addition, these patients were less likely to use more expensive, risky, and invasive procedures for their neck pain including injections compared to patients seen by physicians.

This study highlights the importance of patient self referral to Physical Therapy for neck pain symptoms.