APTA Responds to Los Angeles Times on Back Pain

January 13, 2009

Dear Editor:

Thank you for reporting on the non-surgical options, including physical therapy, available to patients with back pain in "For back pain sufferers, surgery isn't always the answer" (Jan 9) and "Aching back? Many medical and alternative therapies are available" (Jan 12). Physical therapy has been shown to be a more cost-effective way to achieve good results in treating patients with musculoskeletal disorders, including back and neck pain, over the use of drugs or surgery. As reported in a recent issue of the journal Spine (October 2008) patients who receive physical therapy for musculoskeletal conditions are less likely to seek additional medical care up to one year following treatment.

For pain of a mechanical origin such as that of the back or neck, hands-on therapy to mobilize the spine combined with exercises designed to alleviate low back pain, have been shown to be particularly effective. A study in the October 2006 issue of Spine showed that patients with lumbar spinal stenosis can benefit from physical therapy, particularly when manual physical therapy, exercise, and a progressive body-weight-supported treadmill walking program are used.

In today's challenging economic times, it is important for consumers to know that physical therapist intervention can be an effective, more affordable, conservative solution for treatment of back pain.


R Scott Ward, PT, PhD
American Physical Therapy Association