Study Reveals Early Physical Therapy Treatment Of Lower Back Pain Reduces Medicare Outlays

Tuesday, May 23, 2017 General News
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Findings Also Show Improved Function Compared to Injections or Surgery

WASHINGTON, May 23, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- The Alliance for Physical Therapy Quality and Innovation (APTQI) today announced

the findings of a study on the cost of treatments for lower back pain.  It showed that newly diagnosed patients with low back pain who received physical therapy as their first intervention had lower total Medicare costs and improved function when compared to receiving injections or surgeries as their first intervention. 

The independent analysis, conducted by health care research firm The Moran Company (TMC), assessed different initial interventions and associated costs for low back pain, within the Medicare program. 

On average, patients who received physical therapy first witnessed a 19 percent reduction in Medicare outlays versus those who initially received injections; and approximately 75 percent less than those who received surgery first.  In addition, patients who opted for physical therapy within 15 days of being diagnosed, saw 27 percent lower average costs due to fewer required follow-on health care services such as injections and surgeries, according to the study.

The findings further revealed that in the year following the diagnosis, the difference in average spending showed physical therapy first patients saved 18 percent more than those who received injections, and 54 percent more compared to patients who underwent surgeries. 

"More than 80 percent of the U.S. adult population experiences low back pain," said Troy Bage, Executive Director of APTQI.  "This research speaks loudly to the potentially significant cost savings and improved functional outcomes that early physical therapy can provide if implemented with the first 45 days after diagnosis.  Getting patients back into a productive daily routine at a lower cost is a win-win."   

An executive brief as well as the full analysis with additional references can be found at the APTQI website.

Executive Brief:

Full Study:

About the TMC Study MethodologyThe study was based on a comprehensive accounting of Medicare Parts A and B program spending for a population of patients based on the initial treatments received following low back pain diagnosis.  It used nationally representative Medicare claims datasets across multiple service sites, tabulations of total Medicare A/B spending on average for groups of patients with a low back pain diagnosis who received physical therapy or injections or surgeries first.

About The Alliance for Physical Therapy Quality and InnovationThe Alliance for Physical Therapy Quality and Innovation (APTQI) is a trade association representing the legislative and regulatory interests of small, medium and large physical therapy practices seeking healthcare policy information to better support the future of physical therapy services.  Our goal is to establish physical therapy as the treatment of choice and the best value for patients and payers.  APTQI works collaboratively with the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) and other leading professional groups to advocate for transparency and collaboration across the continuum of care.  For more information, visit

Media ContactShelly Eckenroth, Select Medical717-920-4035/

To view the original version on PR Newswire, visit:

SOURCE Alliance for Physical Therapy Quality and Innovation


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