By: Dr. Ryan Towns, PT, DPT
Cadence Physical Therapy Co, Buffalo Grove
One thing that I have noticed as a physical therapist is that the vast majority of patients, regardless of condition, are searching for the fastest cure or quickest source of pain relief. Why shouldn’t they? If it’s a chronic condition, such as spinal stenosis, they have been living with pain and weakness for months to years and are sick of dealing with it. The short answer to this is that it is possible to achieve fast pain relief, but there is good news and bad news associated with it. The good news is that they may be able to walk, climb stairs, stand, or pick objects up from the ground with less pain and difficulty; the bad news is that the magic eventually wears out and pain will return to previous levels, if not worse than before. Patients will oftentimes just return to their healthcare provider, receive another injection, and be on their way until pain comes back yet again. Not only does this create a problem in the fact that the corticosteroid injections lose effectiveness with repeated use, but it begins to become quite expensive for the patient, especially since it is just a band-aid and is not actually solving anything.
When it comes to the scope of physical therapy, our main focus is to achieve meaningful, life-changing results. While we work hard to provide pain relief as fast as possible, we only feel we have done our job to the fullest potential once our patients are pain-free for months and years to come. When an individual is experiencing chronic low back pain, for example, most of them will go to see their general practitioner where he or she is told to “keep an eye on it” for about 14 days. If the pain persists after the 2 week period, he or she then typically schedules an appointment with a specialist where they wait another 16.8 days, on average, until their visit. On the other hand, if this individual opts to take advantage of direct access in the state of Illinois and visit a physical therapist first for conservative management or even just an in-depth examination to determine potential causes of pain, it was found that this person would save an average of $2,736, which is 60% cheaper than the cost of physician office visits, spinal injections, imaging studies, and potential lumbar surgeries.
In conclusion, the short-term pain relief option may seem like the best choice up front, but once the total costs, time spent waiting, and long-term outcomes of the condition are tallied up, physical therapy sounds like a pretty safe bet to me.
For Buffalo Grove physical therapy, you can trust us to deliver the desired results with fewer visits. Contact us at (847) 378-4970 today and set up an initial appointment.
- Childs, J.D., Fritz, J.M., Wu, S.S. et al. Implications of early and guideline adherent physical therapy for low back pain on utilization and costs. BMC Health Serv Res 15, 150 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12913-015-0830-3
- Fritz, Julie M. PT, PhD, ATC; Childs, John D. PT, PhD; Wainner, Robert S. PT, PhD; Flynn, Timothy W. PT, PhD. Primary care referral of patients with low back pain to physical therapy, Spine (2012), 37(25):2114-2121. doi: 10.1097/BRS.0b013e31825d32f5
- Fritz JM, Brennan GP, Hunter SJ. Physical therapy or advanced imaging as first management strategy following a new consultation for low back pain in primary care: association with future health care utilization and charges. Health Services Research (2015), 50(6): 1927-1940.
- Gellhorn AC, Chan L, Martin B, Friedly J. Management patterns in acute low back pain: the role of physical therapy. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2012;37(9):775-782. doi:10.1097/BRS.0b013e3181d79a09