APTA Responds to US News & World Report on Exercise and Pain

February 17, 2009

Dear Editor:

As president of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), I read with great interest your February 3, 2009, article (Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much) about the phone study that found that health care professionals are not prescribing exercise often enough for neck and back pain. Physical therapists, as the experts in human motion, are well versed in the use of therapeutic exercise for neck and back pain.

Depending on the acuteness of the injury, exercise prescriptions can vary in intensity based on examination and diagnosis. It's also very important to be aware that, while exercises are being prescribed, some patients may not identify the treatment as "exercises."

Physical therapists have long been proponents of exercises for both neck and back pain. Recently, a report published in APTA's scientific journal, Physical Therapy, found that motor control exercises, when performed in conjunction with other forms of therapy, can significantly reduce pain and disability in patients with persistent low back pain. Especially in these tough economic times, consumers should be aware of the cost effectiveness of physical therapist interventions over the expense and side effects of surgery and prescription medications for many conditions.


R Scott Ward, PT, PhD
American Physical Therapy Association