Up to 80% of the population will experience Low back pain at some point in their lifetime. Low back pain is second leading reason for visits to an MD, behind only the common cold. It is also one of the leading causes of disability and missed time at work. Between imaging, medication usage, and surgery, the healthcare costs have been significant for the treatment of low back pain. It is estimated that low back pain costs between $85-$240 billion dollars. Unfortunately, most scans (such as MRI and X-rays) have been shown to not be useful in the treatment of low back pain as up to 80% of people WITHOUT low back pain will show degenerative disc changes on MRI. In fact, 40% of 20 year olds and up to 95% of 80 year olds will show “disc degeneration” on CT scan or MRI regardless if they have pain or not. In addition to unwarranted imaging, opioid use is prevalent in those with chronic low back pain. Up to 50% of opioid users report a chronic history of low back pain. These opioid medications are highly addictive, have a number of serious side effects and have shown no evidence for long-term improvement in the treatment of low back pain and disability.
So instead of scans, opioid medications, and surgeries except in a small number of cases, what is the best health care option for someone dealing with low back pain?
Physical therapy, except for extreme cases, should always be the first option for the treatment of low back pain. Physical therapists are doctoral level health care providers who are highly skilled in the proper treatment of low back pain. Using a combination of hands on therapy, patient education, and exercise has proven to be the best treatment for low back pain. Studies have shown that getting an MRI first before physical therapy can cost $4,793 more then getting PT First. Remember, getting imaging first has not been shown to improve outcomes in the treatment of low back pain. Also, physical therapy has proven to be just as effective as surgery in those with spinal stenosis and is a cheaper and much safer option. A recent major study has shown that early, evidence based physical therapy yields lower health care costs, decreased use of imaging/surgery/injections, and improved pain/disability in patients with low back pain.
At Breakthru Physical Therapy, each patient will undergo a comprehensive evaluation by a doctoral level physical therapist to rule out red flag symptoms and determine the best treatment interventions. A patient can expect a hands-on treatment approach consisting of evidenced based manual therapy techniques in addition to specific exercises designed to return to your normal lifestyle. If no improvement with conservative treatment, our therapists are trained to make appropriate referrals if necessary (although rarely needed). Physical Therapy should be your #1 choice following an episode of low back pain so call us today to get you on your road to recovery!