APTA Responds to AP Story on Unneccessary Spinal Surgeries

April 8, 2009

Dear Editor:

I am writing in regards to the April 6 article, "Unneeded, riskier spinal fusion surgery on rise," by Carla K. Johnson.

This JAMA study confirms that it is vitally important to look at alternative methods to treat spinal stenosis, such as physical therapy, which can help patients avoid long-term use of medications and their side effects as well as the risks and costs associated with surgery, in many cases.

A study in the journal Spine (July 15, 2008) reported that patients who receive physical therapy for low back pain are less likely to seek additional medical care up to one year following treatment, making physical therapy a potentially more cost-effective approach.

Placing Medicare patients at unnecessary risk and adding an unnecessary financial burden to the Medicare system is simply unacceptable. Physical therapists are valuable partners on a patient's health care team, working with physicians and others to find the best solutions for patients.

Yours sincerely,

R. Scott Ward, PT, PhD
American Physical Therapy Association