Physical therapy offers evidence-based solution to musculoskeletal pain

December 15, 2008,

The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) is urging patients with musculoskeletal pain to consider treatment by a physical therapist, in light of a new federal survey showing that more than one-third of American adults and nearly 12 percent of children use alternative medicine – with back and neck pain being the top reasons for treatment. Results of the 2007 survey of more than 32,000 Americans were released Dec. 11 by the National Institutes of Health's National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

According to APTA, physical therapy offers an evidence-based, time-tested solution to these common conditions in comparison to alternative treatments.

For neck pain, for example, a recent study published in the medical journal Spine found that when patients received up to six treatments of manual physical therapy and exercise, they not only experienced pain relief, but were also less likely to seek additional medical care up to one year following treatment.

"This study, demonstrating the efficacy of physical therapy for a condition as widespread as neck pain, is particularly relevant in today's challenging economic environment," according to the study's lead researcher and APTA spokesman Michael Walker, PT, DSc, OCS, CSCS, FAAOMPT. "The Kaiser Foundation, for instance, recently found that more than half of all Americans are not taking prescribed medication and postponing needed medical care in an effort to save money. It is important for consumers to know that there are effective, conservative solutions such as physical therapy available. "

Walker's study compared the effectiveness of a three-week program of manual physical therapy and exercise to a minimal intervention treatment approach for patients with neck pain.

Study participants consisted of 94 patients with a primary complaint of neck pain, 58 (62%) of whom also had radiating arm pain. Patients randomized to the manual physical therapy and exercise group received joint and soft-tissue mobilizations and manipulations to restore motion and decrease pain, followed by a standard home exercise program of chin tucks, neck strengthening, and range-of-motion exercises. Patients in the minimal intervention group received treatment consistent with the current guidelines of advice, range-of-motion exercise, and any medication use prescribed by their general practitioner. Patients did not have to complete all six visits if their symptoms were fully resolved.

Sample exercises to relieve neck pain can be found on the APTA Web site, www.apta.org/consumer.

Results show that manual physical therapy and exercise was significantly more effective in reducing mechanical neck pain and disability and increasing patient-perceived improvements during short- and long-term follow-ups. These results are comparable with previous studies that found manual physical therapy and exercise provided greater treatment effectiveness (Hoving et al, 2002) and cost effectiveness (Kothals-de Bos et al, 2003) than general practitioner care.

"Physical therapist intervention can be an effective, high-value, conservative solution for treatment of musculoskeletal pain," said Walker.

"Physical therapists can help individuals improve mobility and quality of life without expensive surgery or the side effects of pain medication. We give patients the tools they need, such as the home program we used in the study, to help them prevent or manage a condition in order to achieve long-term health benefits."

Source: American Physical Therapy Association

Explore further: Therapy dogs may unlock health benefits for patients in hospital ICUs

Related Stories

Therapy dogs may unlock health benefits for patients in hospital ICUs

February 13, 2018
While therapy dogs have long been welcomed as "nonpharmacological interventions" for some hospitalized patients, their use with those who are critically ill is new for many hospitals.

The connection between a healthy marriage and a healthy heart

February 8, 2018
For many, marriage signals the beginning of an entwined and, at times, tangled relationship. Spouses often play the role of friend, co-parent, caregiver, financial partner and emotional support system for their significant ...

Surgeon discusses latest treatments for shoulder problems

January 17, 2018
Anthony Romeo, MD, watched the recent World Series with particular interest. A specialist in shoulder and elbow surgery, Romeo treats many well-known Major League Baseball pitchers and other players. He is one of the doctors ...

Patients benefit from one-on-one PT education before joint replacement

January 17, 2018
A study at Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) finds that patients benefit from a one-on-one education session with a physical therapist and access to a web-based microsite prior to joint replacement surgery. They achieved ...

Smart insulin patch may aid future therapies

January 18, 2018
A smart insulin patch, once translated for humans, could eliminate the need for constant blood testing and help diabetics maintain a more consistent level of blood glucose.

Nurses with a mission: Send older ER patients home with help

February 2, 2018
When 86-year-old Carol Wittwer took a taxi to the emergency room, she expected to be admitted to the hospital. She didn't anticipate being asked if she cooks for herself. If she has friends in her high-rise. Or if she could ...

Recommended for you

Building better tiny kidneys to test drugs and help people avoid dialysis

February 16, 2018
A free online kidney atlas built by USC researchers empowers stem cell scientists everywhere to generate more human-like tiny kidneys for testing new drugs and creating renal replacement therapies.

Expanding Hepatitis C testing to all adults is cost-effective and improves outcomes

February 16, 2018
According to a new study, screening all adults for hepatitis C (HCV) is a cost-effective way to improve clinical outcomes of HCV and identify more infected people compared to current recommendations. Using a simulation model, ...

Study suggests expanded range for emerging tick-borne disease

February 16, 2018
Human cases of Borrelia miyamotoi, a tick-borne infection with some similarities to Lyme disease, were discovered in the eastern United States less than a decade ago. Now new research led by the Yale School of Public Health ...

Flu shot only 36 percent effective, making bad year worse (Update)

February 15, 2018
The flu vaccine is doing a poor job protecting older Americans and others against the bug that's causing most illnesses.

IFN-mediated immunity to influenza A virus infection influenced by RIPK3 protein

February 15, 2018
Each year, influenza kills half a million people globally with the elderly and very young most often the victims. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 37 children have died in the United States ...

A new class of drug to treat herpes simplex virus-1 infection

February 14, 2018
For patients with the herpes simplex-1 virus (HSV-1), there are just a handful of drugs available to treat the painful condition that can affect the eyes, mouth and genitals.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.