Physical therapists offer low-cost solution to increasing health costs

Physical therapists offer low-cost solution to increasing health costs

Spinal Mobilization, Exercise and Advice Offer Patients an Effective Alternative for Back Pain

Rockport, ME. March 18, 2008 - Health care expenditures for patients with spinal conditions are rising without an associated increase in health status, according to a February, 2008 research report appearing in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study suggests Americans may be wasting their money for treatments as the overall proportion of people with impaired function increased from 1997-2005, despite a 65% increase in expenditures to treat spine conditions. Physical therapists offering spinal mobilization, exercise, and advice can provide an effective alternative for patients with back and neck problems, often at a lower cost.

"I think the truth is we have perhaps oversold what we have to offer," said Richard A. Deyo, a physician at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland and a coauthor of the report. "All the imaging we do, all the drug treatments, all the injections, all the operations have some benefit for some patients. But I think in each of those situations we've begun using those tests or treatments more widely than science would really support."

What science does support is the effectiveness of physical therapy for affecting outcomes in patients with spinal conditions. "Research has consistently shown the value of particular physical therapy interventions for patients with back and neck problems," said Dr. Timothy Flynn of Regis University in Denver, CO, and President of the American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapists (AAOMPT). "Specifically, spinal mobilization and exercise have repeatedly been shown to be effective in managing patients' current pain and preventing future episodes." Local physical therapist Dr. Katie Snow, owner of Snow Sport & Spine, Orthopaedic Manual Therapy Center, in Rockport agrees. Snow recommends that patients be proactive in seeking treatment for their back and neck pain. "They need to ask questions and seek the answers. People don't have to just live with the pain. Patients can live much happier and more active lifestyles sometimes with just a few manual interventions and exercises." Dr. Snow has 10 years of experience in treating many spinal conditions and is an active member of the AAOMPT.

Particularly discouraging in this recent report was an increase in pharmaceutical expenditures of 171% during the study period. This suggests that physicians are over-utilizing an ineffective treatment for spine pain.

"Patients options are pharmaceuticals, surgery, or conservative therapies including PT," explained Snow. "The reality is that very few treatments have shown the ability to truly affect patients with spine conditions. Physical therapists can do just that."

These treatments include hands-on therapies to mobilize the spine and exercises designed to alleviate low back pain. Snow suggests that patients should seek out physical therapists as a first-line treatment for these conditions.

For more on the benefits physical therapists can provide in the management of back and neck problems, contact Dr. Katie Snow at Snow Sport and Spine, 230-0700, email at katieatsnowsportandspine [dot] com or visit the American Academy of Orthopaedic Manual Physical Therapists website at www.aaompt.org. AAOMPT represents physical therapists by promoting excellence in orthopaedic manual physical therapy practice, education and research.

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