Utah Study: Early Physical Therapy Can Ease Lower Back Pain

Everybody knows someone who has suffered in the past or currently suffers from back pain. And who knows – with an estimated 31 million adults who experience low back pain each year, that person might just be you! Considerable research has been done over the years to try and find a way to minimize back pain in patients before they require surgery, including this latest study on physical therapy for back pain by a research team at Intermountain Healthcare.

Can physical therapy remediate back pain?

“It’s likely there’s a group of patients who could benefit from early physical therapy,” said Julie Fritz, physical therapist and clinical outcomes research scientist at Intermountain Healthcare. “It’s not everyone, and we need to examine that further. But using it doesn’t automatically jack up costs.”

Fritz and a team of scientists at the University of Utah examined medical records and insurance claims for more than 2,000 patients who saw their primary care provider for low back pain between 2004 and 2008. What they were trying to determine was which course of action was the most cost effective for these patients over the long term. What they found is that initial physical therapy for low back pain did not, in fact, raise health care costs the way many believed it would.

Second only to headaches, back pain is one of the most common neurological ailments in the US according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Not only is it the most common job-related disability, but it can also signal even bigger health problems, such as a kidney stone or urinary tract infection. Fritz and her team did note that many back pain symptoms can be managed by over the counter pain medicines, and that the debate over the effectiveness of early physical therapy remains.

Fritz noted that even with her research, many family doctors were hesitant to prescribe early physical therapy, often choosing to wait until the pain lasted several weeks. “The argument is that intervening early with physical therapy is either a waste of time or it could add costs or cause harm,” she said.

She also added that while many patients improve quickly after undergoing physical therapy, full recovery remains just out of reach for many. Back pain recurrence is common, but early intervention gives patients the best chance to eliminate the pain once and for all.

To conduct their research, the team took their list of over 2,000 patients and narrowed it down to a group of 286 people who had sought physical therapy within two weeks of the onset of their pain. They then compared costs with those who underwent other forms of treatment, noting “We found cost drivers, but it wasn’t physical therapy.”

The study also showed patients of advanced age, as well as those with mental problems or those being treated with opioids for neck pain, more commonly required advanced treatment measures such as epidural injections or surgery.

As part of our nonsurgical expertise, our physicians at Southwest Spine and Sports develop comprehensive treatment plans and work closely with specialized physical therapist to help restore your physical health so you can get back to the quality of life you’ve been missing.

Back Pain Treatment Alternatives

Of course, physical therapy is not the only option you have for treating chronic low back pain. The team of physicians at Southwest Spine & Sports have been offering non-surgical regenerative medicine, including PRP and Stem Cell therapy, since 1999.

“We view regenerative medicine as a safe, all natural alternative to pain management, and the results speak for themselves,” Wolff comments. “We have had patients who had suffered from extreme pain for years, after a few rounds of treatment, able to resume their favorite activities. We’re excited about where the field is now and are helping to see it through for years to come.”

If you’re suffering from back pain, there’s hope. Physical therapy and other non-surgical methods for back pain treatment, including regenerative medicine techniques, are extremely viable options to help you live pain free. If you live in Arizona and are interested in PRP treatment, stem cell treatment or other regenerative medicine treatments, contact the physicians at Southwest Spine & Sports today by calling (480) 860-8998 or clicking here.

If you’d like to read more about the the study, click here»