If you are experiencing neck or low back pain, there is new research that shows that who you see first may influence how much it costs to help you.
In a study by Deninger et al to be published in the Journal of Orthopedic and Sport Therapy, the authors compared patient outcomes and the total cost over a year for patients going directly to a physical therapist for care to those patients who went to a physician first and then to physical therapy. What this study found was that in similar patients, those who went to physical therapy directly had on average $1543 less expense over the course of a year compared to those who saw their physician first. Also, there was no difference in outcomes between the two groups-meaning the same percent did well.
In this study, the costs which were tracked included medication, imaging, surgery, physical therapy, and any other services for the back or neck pain. Given that both groups received the same type of physical therapy, the increased costs are likely associated with the ordering or prescribing of other interventions that were likely unnecessary and not relevant to the outcome. See my other blogs about imaging for back and neck pain.
Seeing a physical therapist without first seeing a physician is called Direct Access to therapy. This is legal in Wisconsin, and any patient can see a physical therapist for a problem without having to see a physician first.
At my clinic, I see many patients direct access. I am able to see them quicker, they do not have to spend the money on a physician visit that does not help with their problem, and treatment is able to be initiated sooner, helping them recover quicker and get back to doing the things they enjoy.
The study also showed, that this is a very safe and effective way to manage back and neck pain. This is what I see in my clinic as well. Once a patient is thoroughly assessed to make sure that their is nothing serious going on that would indicate that they need to see a physician, evidence-based care consisting of manual therapy, exercise, and education can be started. The ability to start this treatment sooner, usually means that fewer visits are needed-something else which was identified in the study.
If you or someone you know, experiences an episode of neck or back pain, consider giving my a call first. After a detailed examination, I can help you get back to health quickly and save you money in the long run.
Feel free to let me know if you have any questions.
Thanks for reading,