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Choose Physical Therapy for Back Pain

Choose Physical Therapy for Back Pain

Chances are, you or someone you know has had back pain. Each year 15% of the population has their first episode of back pain, and over the course of our lives, 80% of us will have back pain. Even though back pain is common, the medical community does a poor job managing it. Stories of chronic pain, opioid use, multiple surgeries, and a lifetime of disability are far too common.

Let’s look at some of the common treatments for low back pain and see how they stack up against physical therapy:

Medication

Low back pain is the #1 reason for opioid prescription in the US, however in 2106, the CDC recommended against the use of opioids for back pain in favor of “non-drug treatments like physical therapy.”

Imaging

Having an X-ray or MRI for back pain is common, however it’s rarely needed or helpful. Research has NEVER demonstrated a link between imaging and symptoms. As we age, degenerative changes on imaging is common.

  1. 90% of people age 50 to 55 have disc degeneration when imaged, whether they have symptoms or not
  2. In 2015 a study that looked at 1,211 MRI scans of people with no pain found that 87.6% had a disc bulge
  3. Just getting an image increases the chances that you’ll have surgery by 34%

Surgery

The US has sky high rates for back surgeries – 40% higher than any other country and 5x higher than the UK. You’d think that with all the back surgeries we do, we’d be pretty good at it but the outcomes are terrible! A worker’s comp study looked at 725 people who had spinal fusions VS 725 people who didn’t. The surgical group had:

  1. A 1 in 4 chance of a repeat surgery
  2. A 1 in 3 chance of a major complication
  3. A 1 in 3 chance of never returning to work again

Physical Therapy

  1. Current clinical practice guidelines support manual therapy and exercise
  2. Research proves that early PT lead to better outcomes with lower costs, and decreases the risk of surgery, unnecessary imaging, and use of opioids
  3. A study of 122,723 people with low back pain who started PT within 14 days found that it decreased the cost to treat back pain by 60%
  4. Unfortunately only 2% of people with back pain start with PT, and only 7% get to PT within 90 days.

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. Almost every state has 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!

80% of Americans Experience Back Pain, But 100% of PTs Know How to Prevent It

Got back pain? You’re not alone. Eighty percent of Americans suffer from low back and neck pain at some point in their lives. Let that sink in. With such great odds that you—or someone close to you—will one day become a statistic, wouldn’t it make sense to arm yourself with preventive strategies and knowledge? Physical therapy is a good place to start.

By performing a thorough evaluation, a physical therapist can identify the muscular, postural and skeletal limitations that could one day lead to an episode of back pain. As part of the assessment, she will observe as you perform a series of exercises and then gather an account of your daily activity level and environmental factors like operating machinery or working at a desk 40 hours a week.

The PT will then use all of this knowledge to design a personalized exercise program and teach you a few APTA-approved strategies to prevent back pain:

• Use good body positioning at work, home and during recreational activities.
• Keep the load close to your body during lifting.
• Ask for help before lifting heavy objects.
• Maintain a regular physical fitness regimen—staying active can help to prevent injuries.

Lifestyle can play a big role in back pain. In fact, inactivity and incorrect body mechanics while participating in certain activities are two of the biggest contributors to back pain. In addition to the strategies listed above, it’s also helpful to pay attention to little things throughout your day that could add up to bigger problems down the line. Let’s go back to that desk job for a minute: How often do you get up to walk, stretch and move throughout the day? A good rule of thumb is to stand up or move every 30 minutes. You may get bonus points with your boss, too, as your productivity soars due to the increased activity.

While low back pain rarely becomes serious or life-threatening, it can be quite painful and interfere with our daily lives. Working with a physical therapist can help patients identify the factors that might contribute to back pain and help to develop a prevention plan. But the healthcare professionals are also a great place to turn when you’re seeking treatment for back pain or hoping to prevent a recurrence.

With such good odds that you could one day become a low back pain statistic, why not do everything in your power today to change your trajectory? Seems like another good reason to find an activity (or better yet, two or three activities) that you enjoy, make it a regular part of your day and stick to it!

Do You Know Why You Have Back Pain Here’s How You Can Find Out

Do You Know Why You Have Back Pain? Here’s How You Can Find Out

Is the source of your low back pain a mystery? You’re not alone: Nine out of 10 patients don’t know the primary cause of their back pain. The problem is that most people seek treatment after they’ve begun exhibiting symptoms of back pain. While this may seem logical on the surface, we’re here to tell you that there’s a better way.

The key is to go to a physical therapist before you begin to see the signs and symptoms of back pain. I’m sure that right about now you’re asking, “Why would I do that?” One, because physical therapists are trained to recognize the physical dysfunctions that may one day lead to back pain. And two, because eight out of 10 Americans suffer from low back pain at some point in their lives, so the chances are good that you could become a statistic one day.

Seeing a physical therapist on an annual basis is one of the most effective ways to prevent back pain from occurring in the first place. Doesn’t that sound like the better alternative? Great, now that you’re on board, let’s talk about what you can expect during that annual physical therapy appointment. The first time you go, your physical therapist will collect a complete picture of your medical history. During subsequent visits, it’ll be important to update your physical therapist about any changes to your health during the previous 12 months, but it won’t be necessary to review your entire medical history again.

Next, your physical therapist will perform an examination using a variety of tests and measures including a movement screen. A movement screen is a screening tool that’s designed to identify imbalances in your mobility and stability that may contribute to limited function or other impairments. This gives your PT the ability to see how your back, hips, core, shoulders, knees and ankles perform during a series of carefully selected exercises.

The information gathered during an examination helps your physical therapist to identify changes from one year to the next, a critical step in assessing your risk for back pain and a host of other debilitating conditions. If a problem is identified early enough, then your physical therapist is better equipped to discuss preventive measures instead of designing a treatment plan. And that’s how you identify the root cause of back pain and derail issues before they even begin. Mystery solved.