What to do about the out of control cost of treating back and neck pain

Greg Schroeder Back Pain

A recent article published by WebMD reported that in the United States we spend 86 billion dollars per year to treat low back pain and pointed out that despite the growing amount spent disability rates are worsening.  Other source estimate that it’s between $50 and 100 billion for back pain alone. In fact, back pain is the number one reason for disability in the United States. This is a fact and it will continue to grow if something doesn’t change in the way the medical community treats back and neck pain.


So what should we do about it you ask?  USE PHYSICAL THERAPY MORE AND SOONER!

Two recent studies published in journal Spine prove that Physical Therapy performed earlier saves money and reduces disability.

In 2010 the article entitled Management Patterns in Acute Low Back Pain: The Role of Physical Therapy studied the records of 439,195 patient’s on Medicare with new episodes of low back pain.   The finding were shocking.  If a person was sent to a Physical Therapist by their doctor within 4 weeks after the onset of the pain the likelihood that they’d need future doctor visits, an injection or surgery was reduced 40% to 50% as compared to patient’s who were not sent to Physical Therapy.

In 2012 a group of Physical Therapists studied 32,070 patients with a new visit to the doctor for low back pain.  If a patient was sent to the Physical Therapist with in the first two weeks after the onset of their back pain the likelihood they’d need future doctor visits, opiod medications, injections or surgery was reduced between 34% and 78%.  This resulted in an average saving of $2, 736 per case.

Based on these two studies it is clear that seeing a Physical Therapist in the first two to four weeks after back pain starts saves thousands of dollars.  In addition to the reduction in cost the studies found another fairly shocking statistic.  Even though Physical Therapy reduces costs to treat the pain by an $2,736 per person physicians only refer patients who come to them for back pain to Physical Therapy 7% to 16% of the time depending on study we look at.

Can you see how physical therapy can reduce the cost of treatment of low back pain?  What if 50% of people who saw their doctor for low back pain were referred for physical therapy?  How much money would be saved?  How much suffering would be saved.  How much disability would be prevented.  Billions of dollars worth!

So the next time you have back pain head straight to the physical therapist or if you do see your doctor first insist on seeing a physical therapist immediately.  You’ll save thousands of dollars and get back to normal function faster.