Timing of Physical Therapy Intervention is Important in Terms of Healthcare Costs and Time Spent in Pain

A research study was published on November 26th, 2018, that shows – like low back pain – early physical therapy intervention for neck pain significantly reduces the overall cost of an episode of injury (namely from reducing the need for imaging, injections, prescription medications and the total number of PT visits needed to treat).  The magic number…is fourteen days. Based on the 308 study participants that met all relevant criteria, if you receive physical therapy treatment within the first 14 days after onset of neck pain, you are 4.3-5.3x less likely to get an injection, 2.8x less likely to get an opioid prescription, 4x less likely to get an MRI and 3x less likely to get an x-ray.  Along with these benefits, the median number of days from the beginning to the end of physical therapy care is 49 days vs. 319 for those waiting 3 months to a year to address neck pain. To read the complete synopsis, go to https://www.apta.org/PTinMotion/News/2018/12/04/EarlyPTNeckPain/ or to read the entire article you can find it for free at https://bmchealthservres.biomedcentral.com/track/pdf/10.1186/s12913-018-3699-0.  

It is common to hear people talk about how they don’t mind incurring medical costs once they have met their deductibles, and I have definitely thought this way before, but who pays the real cost of all the additional (possibly avoidable) bills?  Some would argue that employers are the ones who suffer. Any company that is self-insured pays for each covered cost – it drains the pool of funds more quickly than otherwise. Even a company that is not self-insured may pay a cost by a higher rise in premiums that may otherwise not have been incurred.  

Some pains can definitely heal themselves over time.  Our bodies are wildly complex and amazing! I believe that you should know within 14 days whether or not you are going to need some help getting over your symptoms.  And don’t forget the residual effects of an injury that you may not be aware of that a physical therapist can identify and show you how to work on to get back as close to normal as you possibly can – sometimes even better!  Being at your best can help you be more productive at home and at work by reducing stress about the health of your body and worry about how your symptoms will respond to doing your typical tasks. You may be in a better mood (better relationships between family and co-workers) and able to concentrate more completely (get things done more quickly) without the distraction of pain or stiffness.  It could also bring your family more peace of mind to see you functioning at your best as quickly as possible and teach others around you what taking care of yourself looks like…to encourage them to do the same.  

Bottom line:  Don’t wait too long to get your pain addressed by a physical therapist.  How long is too long? 14 DAYS!