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Physical Therapy First for Low Back Pain Lowers Costs

Physical Therapy First for Low Back Pain Lowers Costs

If you have low back pain, you should get evidence-based physical therapy right away. Otherwise, your costs are likely to go up, along with the potential use of opioid medications, spinal injections, surgery, and other treatments.

That’s according to the results of an award-winning study published in BMC Health Services Research that reviewed 122,723 Military Health System patient records (Implications of early and guideline adherent physical therapy for low back pain on utilization and costs – April 9, 2015).

Researchers divided patients into 4 groups: those who received physical therapy within 14 days of a physician visit; those who received physical therapy after a wait of at least 14 days; those who received "adherent" physical therapy (reflecting evidence-based guidelines); and those who received "nonadherent" physical therapy.

The study contributes to a growing body of evidence demonstrating that early physical therapy for low back pain lowers costs, and that beginning low back pain treatment with advanced imaging increases costs.

"Physical therapy as the starting point of care in your low back pain episode can have significant impact," said lead author John D. Childs, PT, PhD, in a PT in Motion News article about the study ("Early Guideline-Based Physical Therapy Results in Health Care Savings for Patients With LBP" - April 9, 2015). "Receiving physical therapy treatment that adheres to practice guidelines even furthers that benefit."

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