Mend Physical Therapy Blog and Injury Information

Early Physical Therapy For Low Back Pain Associated With Improved Outcomes And Lower Cost

July 16, 2022

Low back pain is a common problem and one of the most common areas we treat in our Boulder Physical Therapy practice. In Colorado, patients do not need a referral to seek Physical Therapy services and this pathway (direct access) has continuously been shown in the research to be safe, effective, and save patients health care dollars compared to seeing a physician first. This latter pathway is associated with higher costs secondary to unnecessary and costly imaging, specialist referrals, and procedures. In comparison, many large corporations and health care organizations are using Physical Therapy (including patient education, spinal manipulation, and exercise) first for acute low back pain because of its’ clinical and cost effectiveness. Another study was published supporting the utilization of Physical Therapy first for the treatment of acute low back pain.

Lumbar spinal manipulation

Marrache and colleagues published their findings on the health care utilization of patients who saw Physical Therapists first or another provider for treatment of acute low back pain (BMC Health Serv Res. 2022). Impressively, authors documented the treatment pathway of 980,000 Americans who initially presented with acute low back pain from musculoskeletal causes. Only 11% of these individuals received early Physical Therapy within 2 weeks of the onset of their symptoms. These individuals were compared against their peers who received either delayed Physical Therapy or an appointment with another provider. As expected, early Physical Therapy was associated with reduced odds of seeing another clinician including chiropractors, ER physicians, orthopedists, or pain specialists, as well as, reduce utilization of advanced imaging and steroid injections. Given the large amount of data supporting early utilization of Physical Therapy for acute low back pain, patients are encouraged to see their local Boulder Physical Therapist first.

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