Back Pain? Try Physical Therapy First!

Back pain is a common problem in America, but our medical system is not very good at treating it. “Non-drug treatments like physical therapy” is the first treatment recommended for back pain by many evidence-based treatment guidelines. Unfortunately, many providers don’t follow these guidelines and treatments are often recommended based on opinion rather than research.  Often, people with back pain see multiple providers and may receive multiple expensive imaging tests prior to being seen by a physical therapist, and even more people with back pain never make it to a physical therapist.

Multiple large studies have looked at the effects of early physical therapy on low back pain with impressive results. A 2006 study in Seattle by Virginia Mason Health Center teamed up with Aetna and Starbucks to send workers with back pain to see a physical therapist for their first treatment. Use of MRI dropped by 1/3, people got better faster, missed less work and were more satisfied with their care.

Intel ran a similar program with their employees, getting people with back pain to physical therapy within 48 hours. Previously, it took about 19 days for people to get to a PT. With the earlier access, patients completed their care in 21 days, compared with 52 days previously and costs dropped between 10 and 30%. Intel also found more satisfaction with care and a faster return to work.

The data proves physical therapy is the least expensive and most effective treatment for most people’s low back pain. It’s clear that people with back pain should start treatment with their physical therapist to deliver better, less expensive outcomes with faster improvement, and results.

In Illinois, and in most states, a prescription or referral is not required from your doctor to be treated by a physical therapist. This means you can choose physical therapy first, so call Northern Rehab immediately to start treatment and start feeling better right away. New patients are accepted at all of our offices located in DeKalb/Sycamore, Genoa, and Rochelle.