"Hands-On" Therapies Rated More Effective Than Traditional Medical Care
ALEXANDRIA, VA, April 9, 2009 - Physical therapy ranks among the top
treatment choices of their readers with back pain, according to a new
Consumer Reports survey of more than 14,000 Americans who
experience the condition. In the survey, physical therapist treatment
and other "hands on" therapies outranked treatment by medical
specialists and primary care providers, a result that should prompt more
patients to seek conservative options as a first line of treatment for
their back pain, according to the American Physical Therapy Association
(APTA) and its Orthopaedic Section. The article also urges caution when
using prescription narcotics for back pain.
"Physical therapists, who are experts at improving mobility and
restoring motion in people's lives, can successfully provide very
effective, safe and comprehensive treatment for back pain in many
instances," said APTA President R. Scott Ward, PT, PhD. "In today's
challenging economic times, it is important for consumers to know that
physical therapist intervention can also be a more affordable and cost
A growing body of evidence is pointing toward the effectiveness of
physical therapist treatment for low back pain. A review article
published in the February 2009 Journal of the American Academy of
Orthopaedic Surgeons1 recommended that in most cases of
symptomatic lumbar degenerative disc disease, a common cause of low back
pain (LBP), the most effective treatment is physical therapy combined
with anti-inflammatory medications.
"For pain of a 'mechanical' origin such as low back pain, hands-on
physical therapy to mobilize the spine and exercises designed to
alleviate low back pain have been shown to be particularly effective and
have long-lasting effects on patients," said James J. Irrgang, PT, PhD,
ATC, president of the APTA Orthopaedic Section. "In addition to being
able to provide manual therapy treatments, physical therapists are best
known for providing exercises to restore mobility and prevent recurrence
of low back injuries."
Additionally, a systematic review published in the January issue of
Therapy (PTJ)2, APTA's scientific journal,
found that motor control exercises, a new form of exercise for back pain
that has gained the attention of researchers and health practitioners
over the past decade, can significantly reduce pain and disability when
performed in conjunction with other forms of therapy, in patients with
persistent low back pain.
In addition to pointing out the benefits of manual therapy, the
Consumer Reports article also urges back pain sufferers to be
judicious in their use of prescription medications. According to Orly
Avitzur, MD, a board certified neurologist and medical advisor to
Consumers Union, who comments in the Consumer Reportspiece, half
of the respondents to the low-back-pain survey who were prescribed drugs
for their pain received an opioid pain reliever in spite of the
fact that there is little evidence to support their use in treatment of
lower back pain. And, clinical trials have shown, says Avitzur, that 50
percent of those who take them experience unpleasant side effects,
including cramping, vomiting and nausea to name a few.
Avitzur mentions that 25 percent of users of opioid pain relievers
suffer substance-use disorders like overuse. She goes on to say that
"prescriptions of opioids among patients with spinal disorders more than
doubled from 1997 to 2004" and reports of opioid overdose have risen
with the numbers of prescriptions.
"So many people are more conscious of what they eat and drink than of
the medications they often use without a second thought," said Ward.
"Instead of opening up the medicine cabinet as the first instinct,
patients should first consider physical therapy as a less-invasive,
safer and more cost-effective approach."
In most states patients can now go directly to their physical
therapist for treatment without the need for a referral from a
physician. Physical therapists can diagnose and then design an
appropriate treatment plan. Visit www.moveforwardpt.com to
find a physical therapist near you.
Click here to read the Consumer Reports article.
Physical therapists are highly-educated, licensed health care
professionals who can help patients reduce pain and improve or restore
mobility – in many cases without expensive surgery or the side
effects of prescription medications. APTA represents more than 70,000
physical therapists, physical therapist assistants, and students of
physical therapy nationwide. Its purpose is to improve the health and
quality of life of individuals through the advancement of physical
therapist practice. In most states, patients can make an appointment
directly with a physical therapist, without a physician referral. Learn
more about conditions physical therapists can treat and find a physical
therapist in your area at www.moveforwardpt.com
1 Madigan L, Vaccaro, A, Spector, L, Milam
RA, MD. Management of symptomatic lumbar degenerative disk disease. J
Am Acad Orthop Surg. 2009; 17:102-111.
2 Macedo L, Maher C, Latimer J,
McAuley J. Motor control exercise for persistent, nonspecific low back
pain: A systematic review, Phys Ther. 2009; 89: 9-25.