Back pain is very common, but often it is ignored by patients until it begins to affect their day to day activities. Once the pain is bad enough, sufferers tend to seek advice and treatment from their primary care physician or orthopedic doctor, not seeing a physical therapist until weeks, and perhaps months, pass.We now know that seeking PT treatment earlier may reduce the severity of pain, and reduce functional disability faster.
A new Australian study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine suggests that “customized physical therapy may provide more relief for lower back pain than general advice on the best ways to remain active.”
To be included in the study, subjects needed to have experienced pain from six weeks to six months, and have one of five specific types of back pain, which included disc herniation, reducible disc pain, non-reducible disc pain, joint pain or multi-factorial persistent pain.
Researchers provided two advice sessions explaining the source of their discomfort and providing instruction on proper lifting techniques and activity avoidance to 300 patients with lower back pain. About half of the subjects also received 10 physical therapy treatment sessions, over 10 weeks, customized to their specific needs. Custom PT sessions included specific exercise techniques tailored to the type of injury and individual barriers to recovery.
Researchers found that the physical therapy group had significantly greater reductions in activity limitations, and reduced back pain over specific time frames, as compared to the advice group.
The author concluded that “the findings suggest that advice works for many people but that individualized physical therapy achieves more rapid reduction in pain and in the long-term superior improvements in function/disability.”
A skilled physical therapist is capable of accurately diagnosing the cause of low back pain through history taking and physical examination. Once an accurate cause has been established, conservative physical therapy treatment may be initiated to decrease symptoms, facilitate return to normal function and improve quality of life. Early intervention is important to decrease the potential for long term deficits. Dr. Jerry Moczerniuk is a doctor of physical therapy, member of American Physical Therapy Association, and a clinical director at db Orthopedic Physical Therapy of Manalapan LLC, located at 120 Craig Road, Suite 2. Dr. Moczerniuk can be reached at 732- 462-2162 or via e-mail at Jerry@dborthopt.com. Visit www.dborthopt.com.