Researchers in South Carolina have completed a 2-year study (click for link) comparing claims and outcomes data for a group of patients suffering from neck and back pain. The patients were divided into two groups:
- Those who selected treatment through physical therapy first (Direct Access).
- Those who chose traditional routes to care, primarily consultation with a physician first.
They found that improvement in pain and disability was similar, but direct access patients with neck or back pain incurred $1,543 lower average costs than those who chose referral from a physician, with no adverse events.
What does this mean for me? Patients should consider physical therapy as a first option for pain relief. Physical therapists are experts at identifying imbalances and weaknesses in the musculoskeletal system, which often lead to pain. At the same time, we know our limitations and will refer patients to the best physicians in the area, if necessary.