PTs Offer Low-Cost Treatment for Spinal Conditions

Research Shows Physical Therapy Is an Effective Treatment of Choice for Many Back Pain Patients 

ALEXANDRIA, VA, February 15, 2008 — In contrast to a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) suggesting that spine-related expenditures have increased without evidence of improvement, best evidence suggests that patients who receive physical therapy for musculoskeletal disorders, including back and neck pain, report good outcomes at a lower cost than using drugs or surgery,1 the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) reported today.

For pain of a "mechanical" origin such as back or neck pain, hands-on therapy to mobilize the spine, and exercises designed to alleviate low back pain, have been shown to be particularly effective.2,3 Studies also have shown 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 is used.4 

"Consumers need to know that physical therapist management is a low-cost, high-value alternative to drugs and surgery to deal with musculoskeletal pain," said APTA President R Scott Ward, PT, PhD. "The judicious use of appropriate physical therapist treatment based on best evidence can improve the function of people who struggle with back and neck conditions." Ward added, "Because patients with chronic, disabling low back pain account for a disproportionate share of health care expenditures and workers' compensation costs, the potential cost savings of an early, effective intervention to prevent individuals from progressing to chronic disability may be considerable."

Consumers can find a physical therapist in their area by accessing www.findapt.us - a national database of physical therapist members of APTA. The database allows users to search by zip code and expertise.

Physical therapists are health care professionals who diagnose and manage individuals of all ages, from newborns to elders, who have medical problems or other health-related conditions that limit their abilities to move and perform functional activities in their daily lives. Physical therapists examine each individual and develop a plan of care using treatment techniques to promote the ability to move, reduce pain, restore function, and prevent disability. Physical therapists also work with individuals to prevent the loss of mobility by developing fitness- and wellness-oriented programs for healthier and more active lifestyles.

The American Physical Therapy Association (www.apta.org) is a national organization representing physical therapists, physical therapist assistants, and students nationwide. Its goal is to foster advancements in physical therapist education, practice, and research. Consumers can access "Find a PT" to find a physical therapist in their area, and read physical therapy news and information at www.moveforwardpt.com.


1 Editorial: Preserving the Quality of the Patient-Therapist Relationship: An Important Consideration for Value-Centered Physical Therapy Care, JOSPT; Vol 38 No. 2, Feb. 2008

2 A Clinical Prediction Rule To Identify Patients with Low Back Pain Most Likely To Benefit from Spinal Manipulation: A Validation Study; John D Childs, PhD, PTMaj; Julie M Fritz, PhD, PT; Timothy W Fynn, PhD, PT; James J Irrgang, PhD, PT; Kevin K Johnson, Jaj; Guy R Maikowski, Maj; and Anthony Delitto, PhD, PT; Ann Intern Med. 21 December 2004, Vol 141, Issue 12, pp 920-928

3 Nonpharmacologic therapies for acute and chronic low back pain: a review of the evidence for an American Pain Society/American College of Physicians clinical practice guideline. Chou R, Huffman LH; American Pain Society; American College of Physicians; Ann Intern Med. 2007 Oct 2; 147(7):492-504.

4 A comparison between two physical therapy treatment programs for patients with lumbar spinal stenosis: a randomized clinical trial. Whitman JM, Flynn TW, Childs JD, Wainner RS, Gill HE, Ryder MG, Garger MB, Bennett AC, Fritz JM. Spine, 2006 Oct 15:31 (22):2541-9

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