As life's events unfold, the inevitable aches and pains associated with injury, illness, and age eventually set in and affect our quality of life. Experiencing pain is expected, but living with pain is not necessary and in most cases physical therapy can significantly reduce or relieve pain.
One of the most common pain complaints we hear is related to low-back pain (LBP), which accounts for 2.5 to 3 percent of all physician visits in the United States. It is responsible for an estimated $85 billion in healthcare costs nationally.
Most patients with LBP are seen by their primary physician and often time will be referred to undergo diagnostic tests, such as x-rays and MRIs to help determine the root cause of the pain. These tests more often help identify pathology such as degenerative discs, bulging discs, herniated discs, spurs and arthritis.
Pain associated with such conditions is a more complex experience than what images and pictures of your body can portray. Referrals from your primary provider to physical therapists, who are specifically trained to treat low-back pain with interventions such as manipulation, exercise, and most importantly education about pain and a patient's unique pain experience, will help develop and execute a treatment plan that will address the cause of the pain.
At Portage Health, we develop an independent management program for our patients that are not solely dependent on medications. Although medications can help to control pain, the key objective is regaining pain-free movement as quickly as possible without dependence on medication. A physical therapist, working in concert with your primary physician, will work to find a long-term solution to your pain problems.
Another important component to therapy is timing and the introduction of physical therapy as an integral part of the treatment plan has been shown to be a crucial element in a patient's recovery from low-back pain. Delaying physical therapy goes against current research as several studies have shown reduced costs and improved outcomes with early physical therapy.
In people who receive physical therapy within 30 days after initial physician visit for acute low-back pain, there is decreased likelihood of injections or surgery compared to patients who waited longer to get physical therapy. Also, the use of frequent office visits regarding LBP is significantly lower among people who receive physical therapy within 30 days. That means less money out of your pocket to pay for co-pays.
No matter what influences you to seek physical therapy, early access to physical therapy referrals is the best and most direct way to achieve your goal. We take pride in knowing that our patients receive evidence-based, quality care focused on patient values. We strive for the best clinical outcomes, and we empower patients to have active, pain-free lifestyles. Our focus is to get you back to doing the things that are most important to you, and we can get you there faster.
Editor's note: Mallory Rojewski has her doctoral degree in physical therapy from Grand Valley State University, and serves Copper Country residents out of the Portage Health Rehab office in Calumet. Learn more about Rojewski at portagehealth.org/rojewski.