APTA Responds to USA Today on Back Pain

June 16, 2010

Dear Editor:

I am writing in regards to your June 8 article, "Back pain may be widely overtreated in the U.S." by Lauran Neergaard.

As experts in restoring and improving motion in people's lives, physical therapists must take exception to the advice, "with run-of-the-mill back pain, prepare to allow a month to six weeks to see if it goes away on its own."

When pain persists for four weeks or more, there is a greater likelihood that a chronic condition will develop. If the pain is severe enough to preclude an individual from doing normal activities, it is also unrealistic to expect him or her to put their life "on hold" while waiting for symptoms to improve.

Through appropriate exercise and hands-on interventions like spinal manipulation, physical therapists are able to get people better, faster. Retraining the core muscles, including the abdominal wall and lumbar musculature, as well as exercise and manual therapy have been shown to benefit many patients.

As your article states, expensive and invasive options are often unnecessary. A physical therapist can also educate the patient on self-care options that include body mechanics and posture—the necessary and often overlooked components to prevention of future injury.

Yours sincerely,

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

CSM 2016