You’ve likely already seen the statistics on low back pain. And if so, you know as many as 80% of us will have it at some point in our lives.
Thankfully, in many cases back pain resolves on its own without needing treatment. Others are not as fortunate. This pain doesn’t go away and may become chronic or recurring.
In the end, low back pain (LBP) is the main cause of disability worldwide. All told, it leads to billions of dollars spent on healthcare.
According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons:
- In 2004, the estimated annual direct cost of treating back pain was $193.9 billion.
- Between 1996 and 2004, the cost of spine conditions, in 2004 dollars, increased by 49 percent. Prescription medications caused the largest increase in this figure.
- What’s more, lost wages resulting from back pain add another $22.4 billion in annual indirect costs.
Take Your Back Pain to a PT
Even though the problem of back pain is widespread, very few people see a physical therapist as the entry point into the healthcare system.
Patterns vary widely depending on region, but nationally it is less than 10% and even as low as 3% in some areas.
Research also shows that getting advanced imaging like CT scans and MRIs often leads to invasive procedures ranging from injections to spinal fusion with very mixed results and high costs.
Validated by research, patients and the healthcare system save money when a physical therapist is the first provider for LBP. Unfortunately, this information is not widely known.
Promoting direct access continues to be a focal point for therapists in the outpatient setting. There is a lot of work to be done in this area as many patients are unaware that a referral isn’t needed.
Questions About PT and Back Pain
- How can we in the physical therapy community set ourselves apart as the provider of choice?
- How can we ensure that patients think of us as the first provider to go to with pain issues, specifically low back pain?
- What’s the best way to maintain those connections we have?
Patient engagement is a buzzword right now and for good reason.
Healthcare consumers (and insurance providers like Medicare) are demanding more value.
In addition, we need to be able to stay connected with our patients and find new ways to give high quality care while cutting costs.
Many patients are willing to pay cash for PT services but often at the unintended cost of coming to sessions less frequently.
Thankfully there are technological advancements like telehealth that can help fill the gap, providing interaction with patients on those days when a session at the clinic is not possible.
These options can be a win-win scenario for both patients and providers.
Cited References on Back Pain
BMJ research on LBP: http://ard.bmj.com/content/73/6/968.full
AAOS costs of back pain: http://www.aaos.org/AAOSNow/2009/Jan/research/research6/
AAPM statistics on pain: http://www.painmed.org/patientcenter/facts_on_pain.aspx
APTA Entry point of PT saves money: http://www.apta.org/PTinMotion/News/2015/9/4/MedicaidLBP/
Direct access to PT saves money: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1475-6773.2011.01324.x/abstract
Early PT gets results and saves money: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/26755406/