Most people who end up seeing a physical therapist for back pain do so after seeing their family doctor, getting an x-ray or MRI, and maybe seeing an orthopedist. Current research says that this is the wrong order and that people should be seeing a physical therapist first for back pain.

Studies have shown that people who receive early PT have better outcomes, lower costs, are less likely to have surgery, use opioids or have unnecessary testing. Current clinical practice guidelines for treating low back pain support the use of manual therapy and exercise – two things that physical therapists are experts in. “Patients who seek out PT early after encountering LBP have a high success rate in our clinics.” stated Jim Mike Hinzman, PT, Cert. MDT at East Athens Physical Therapy.  Unfortunately, only 2% of people with back pain start with PT, and only 7% get to PT within 90 days.

What’s wrong with the other options? Stories about the opioid epidemic that the country is currently experiencing are everywhere, and the number one reason for opioids to be prescribed is back pain. The CDC has recommended against the use of opioids for back pain since 2016, and supports the use of non-drug treatments like PT.

“Surgeries for back pain are common, but can often be avoided.  Finding a PT that sees many LBP diagnoses and can use a focus approach to treatment is important.  All of our PTs at East Athens Physical Therapy are trained in the McKenzie Method for treatment of LBP.” stated Hinzman.  Locating the origin of the problem and putting a plan together with the patient to effectively treat the problem is crucial early on.  “After our patients complete their plan of care and are pain-free, it is imperative for the patients to have a home maintenance program to ensure the return of LBP is reduced.” stated Hinzman.

Despite the data showing that PT is the most effective, safest, and lowest cost option to treat low back pain, most people take far too long to get there. In the State of Georgia, patients have Direct Access, meaning that you can go directly to a physical therapist without a doctor’s referral.  If you see your doctor for back pain, and PT isn’t one of the first treatment options, ask for it!


Published on October 22, 2019 7:04 am
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