ProRehab Physical Therapists Offer Relief From Rising Health Care Costs

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Effective and non-invasive treatments provided by ProRehab physical therapists help alleviate back pain, often at a lower cost and with less risk than alternatives. A sharp increase in the number of treatments and tests for back pain in adults has recently been reported by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine and the Wall Street Journal. These findings were not paired with increases in the number of patients with back pain, stenosis or improvements in patient outcomes.

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Hands-on therapy, along with exercise, reduces pain, helps correct the root cause of the back pain and prevents additional problems in the future.

Effective and non-invasive treatments provided by ProRehab physical therapists help alleviate back pain, often at a lower cost and with less risk than alternatives. A sharp increase in the number of treatments and tests for back pain in adults has recently been reported by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine and the Wall Street Journal. These findings were not paired with increases in the number of patients with back pain, stenosis or improvements in patient outcomes. In fact, spinal fusion surgery patients saw an report greater complications and health risks after surgery.

In 2010 JAMA reported a 15-fold increase in the number of complex spinal fusion surgeries to treat lumbar spinal stenosis from 2002-2008. These increases were not paired with an increase in the incidence of complex lumbar stenosis. Patients who had complex fusions had longer hospitalizations, higher rates of re-hospitalization, and three times the rate of serious complications.

The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine study reports a 629% increase in Medicare expenditures for epidural steroid injections from 1994 to 2001; a 423% increase in expenditures for opioids for back pain from 1997 to 2004; a 307% increase in the number of lumbar magnetic resonance images among Medicare beneficiaries from 1994-2004; and a 220% increase in spinal fusion surgery rates from 1988 to 2000.

Similarly, the Wall Street Journal has cited a study on high back pain costs at the Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle. This medical center tested a solution for one of the biggest problems in America’s health care crisis: the U.S. medical system that rewards doctors and hospitals for how much they treat patients, not how well they treat them.

Doctors studied the course of treatment for dozens of patients at Virginia Mason's spine clinic. They found that standard treatment procedures were not being followed. For example, Virginia Mason doctors had gotten into the habit of ordering expensive MRIs for uncomplicated back pain, even though patients didn’t need them.

Patient inconveniences were found as well. Many patients had to wait a month for appointments and often were bounced from specialist to specialist. Eventually, some patients were directed to physical therapy and often only then began to feel relief.

Once the inefficiencies were mapped out on paper, the solution was clear to everyone: physical therapy is the best first choice for back pain. According to the Wall Street Journal article, “That's also what a lot of medical literature suggests. The hospital made the change, and also worked with its team of employers to eliminate extra steps in the medical maze for patients.”

Beth Ross, PT, DPT, SCS, OCS, physical therapist at ProRehab explains, “These three studies conclude that patients with back pain should see a physical therapist first to potentially eliminate unnecessary tests, unproven surgeries, high costs, and most importantly provide a successful outcome while decreasing the chance of returning pain.”

“All the imaging we do, all the drug treatments, all the injections, all the operations have some benefit for some patients. But I think in each of those situations we've begun using those tests or treatments more widely than science would really support,” says Richard A. Deyo, a physician at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland and a coauthor of a study published in February 2008 in Journal of the American Medical Association.

“What science and research does tell us is that physical therapy is effective for patients with back pain. Research has consistently shown a correlation between physical therapy back pain reduction,” said Ross. “Hands-on therapy, along with exercise, reduces pain, helps correct the root cause of the back pain and prevents additional problems in the future.”

“Patients have choices. They have drugs, surgery or non-invasive physical therapy. Few treatments have shown the ability to truly help patients with spine pain. Physical therapists can do just that,” says Ross. These treatments include hands-on therapy to mobilize the spine and exercises designed to get rid of back pain.

The spine experts at ProRehab can help reduce pain, reduce the use of medicines, and prevent painful and costly surgery. When physicians refer patients to physical therapy, patients have a choice regarding who they see. ProRehab invites patients to choose their physical therapists. To learn more about ProRehab visit ProRehab-pc.com.

About ProRehab:
ProRehab is a private physical therapy practice with locations in Evansville, southwest Indiana and western Kentucky. Known for teaching and training physical therapists throughout the region, ProRehab physical therapists are proud that patients ask their doctors to send them to ProRehab for orthopaedic care. They deliver hands-on physical and occupational therapy based on the newest research to achieve the best results for patients with bad backs, achy joints, wounded hands, and sports and work injuries. Along the way, the ProRehab family has fun and makes friends with their patients; patients are actually sad to leave after their treatment is over! Find ProRehab on Facebook, @ProRehab on Twitter, and FourSquare.

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Andrea Baumann
ProRehab
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