June News

WHERE TO START

When you have low back pain

Don’t Delay. For patients with a first episode of low back pain (LBP), getting to physical therapy early can be the key to significantly reduced health care costs.

Researchers analyzed 122,723 patients who went to a primary care physician following an initial low back pain episode and received physical therapy within 90 days. Of these, 24% received early physical therapy (within 14 days) that adhered to guidelines for active treatment. During a 2-year time period, these patients made significantly less use of advanced imaging, lumbar spinal injections, lumbar spine surgery, and opioids than did patients in other combinations of timing and adherence.

Early physical therapy patients also had 60% lower low back pain related costs as compared to 33.5% of patients who had delayed and adherent physical therapy (between 14 and 90 days).

Physical therapy is a great starting point of care for your low back pain occurrence and can have significant positive implications. Receiving physical therapy treatment that adheres to proven practice guidelines even furthers that benefit.

Initial management following a new episode of low back pain can have profound implications for health care utilization and costs. Given the enormous burden of excessive and unnecessary treatment for patients with low back pain, cost savings from physical therapy at the beginning of care has important implications for single payer health care systems.