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“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” We have probably heard that old adage at some point in our lives. And the main principle behind it is that if you take care of the small things then you can often avert larger problems or issues. Think about your vehicle. I bet you take the time to make sure the fluids are good and that the oil is changed. You perform small, cheaper routine maintenance which will extend the life of the engine. You could ignore those things but as they pile up eventually the engine will fail and you have a much larger, more expensive issue. I think the same is true in the world of healthcare and especially physical therapy. The appropriate use of physical therapy for a number of musculoskeletal issues is a cost effective way to manage your health and prevent larger more expensive problems from occurring.
Today’s article is yet another valuable piece of research that sheds light on the cost effectiveness of physical therapy. This study is about 6 years old but continues to be relevant as it is corroborated by many more recent studies. This article looks at back pain in particular and overall medical costs associated with and without physical therapy. This is certainly an article to save, digest, and use to educate your patients.
Implications of Early Physical Therapy
The bottom line of this article to me is when the researchers say, “Early and adherent physical therapy was associated with significantly lower utilization of advanced imaging, lumbar spinal injections, lumbar spine surgery, and use of opioids. Given the enormous burden of excessive and unnecessary care for patients with LBP on society, cost savings from early guideline adherent physical therapy has important implications of single payer health care systems to design optimal care process models for LBP.”
In other words, for low back pain in particular, going to PT early and consistently significantly reduces the individual and societal health care cost. Another fascinating finding in the study was that not only was the musculoskeletal care cost lower but attending PT also had an effect in decreasing other in-patient healthcare costs. In other words, like we mentioned earlier, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. As people went through rehab, the primary problem was resolved but secondary issues improved as well because of exercise and movement. Cool stuff!
I hope you utilize this study and others like it to help your patients understand the importance of physical therapy and what you are trying to do to help them. There are significant, wide-ranging effects from attending PT for low back pain and beyond.
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