APTA Responds to The New York Times on Economy and Surgery

March 20, 2009

Dear Editor:

I read with great interest your March 13 story "Bad Economy Leads Patients to Put Off Surgery, or Rush It." Your story sheds light on a very important health care issue, especially in this difficult economy. There are alternatives though.

Consumers should know there is a more economical option for treatment that can be directly accessed by patients in most states. A physical therapist can diagnose and then design a tailored program to effectively treat pain and enhance mobility without the expense of surgery or side-effects of prescription medications, in many cases.

Physical therapy has been shown to be a more cost-effective way to achieve good results in treating patients with certain musculoskeletal disorders, including back and neck pain in many cases. For example, 75-85 percent of adults are affected by low back pain during their lifetimes,1 costing Americans billions of dollars annually. A report recently published in the American Physical Therapy Association's (APTA) 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.2

Physical therapist intervention for many physical impairments can be an effective, affordable, and conservative solution for treatment of pain and can enhance the mobility so important to everyday activities. In most states patients can make an appointment directly with a physical therapist without a physician referral, another cost savings.

Your readers can learn more about the benefits a physical therapist can offer and how to find one by going to www.moveforwardpt.com.


R Scott Ward, PT, PhD
American Physical Therapy Association

1 Andersson GB: Epidemiological features of chronic low back pain. Lancet 1999; 354:581-585.

2 Macedo LG, Maher CG, Latimer J, McAuley JH: Motor control exercise for persistent, nonspecific low back pain: a systematic review. Physical Therapy. 2009; 89:9-25.

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