A new survey is suggesting physical therapy for victims of back and neck pain it is an evidence-based, tried-and-tested solution to the common conditions when compared to alternative treatments.
Results of the 2007 survey of more than 32,000 Americans were released December 11 by the National Institutes of Health's National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
And now, the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) is urging patients with musculoskeletal pain to consider treatment by a physical therapist in light of new findings.
In a recently published study, it was shown that when patients with neck pain 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.
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," said study's lead researcher and APTA spokesman Michael Walker, PT, DSc, OCS, CSCS, FAAOMPT.
In the new study, the researchers 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 percent) 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.
According to the results, 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.
"Physical therapist intervention can be an effective, high-value, conservative solution for treatment of musculoskeletal pain. 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," said Walker.
Physical therapists are highly-educated, licensed health care professionals who can help patients reduce pain and improve or restore mobility - without expensive surgery or the side effects of medications.