Lower Back Pain and the Case for Early PT Intervention

Hello friends.  It’s that time again…a new year!  With it comes the promise of new commitments, resolutions made for health and fitness, and renewed zeal and engagement in activity .  We at Thrive want to be part of your move towards greater activity, and are here as your musculoskeletal experts to answer questions, prepare you for sport, and help you heal aches and pains.   That said, I must warn you of a lurking impediment to your wellness.  You’ve guessed it, the NEW DEDUCTIBLE.  Spending time and money on your care is less appealing when it’s an out of pocket cost, and we are intimately familiar with financial stressors and the challenge to access care when it’s at your own expense.

it's time to talk about lower back painSo, without further ado, I am going to make the case for coming to physical therapy (PT) early, and argue why it might save you money, lost time, and pain (both literal and figurative) on the back end.  For the purposes of discussion, we’ll focus on low back pain management.

Anecdotally and empirically, back pain is one of the leading reasons persons come in to PT.  In addition to being difficult physically, emotionally, and financially on the individual, it’s can be costly to health care organizations and employers as it is a common cause of missed work and long-term disability.  In fact, it is the number one cause of disability of persons under the age of 45.1  In recognition of the fact that pain left to fester leads to poor health outcomes, it is imperative that patients go directly to physical therapy when they begin to experience pain.  It’s been found that persons at high risk for low back pain who received early therapeutic intervention have less chronic pain, utilization of healthcare monies, missed work, and medication usage than those that don’t receive care.2 Further studies find that persons with acute low back pain who engage in education, manual therapies, and exercise have improved mood, health, and quality of life than patients who wait for treatment.3

Despite the considerable evidence that therapeutic intervention is integral in pain reduction, resumption of activity, and return to work, you’d be surprised how often people take the “wait and see” approach.    This is especially true in the bleak mid-winter that is January and February.  That stops now, because as you now know, informed reader, the earlier you receive treatment, the faster you improve!   The faster you improve, the less time and money you spend on medication, missed work, and medical appointments!  So you see, I have made the case for PT as a savings vehicle, both of future time and money.  It is settled, deductibles be damned.  We at Thrive look forward to hearing from you and being part of your rehabilitation as you strive for wellness in 2018.


1. Mayer TG, Gatchel RJ. Functional restoration for spinal disorders: The sports medicine approach. Philadelphia: Lea & Febiger, 1988.
2. Gatchel J, Polatin P, Now C, Gardea M, Pulliam C, Thompson J. (2003) Treatment and cost-effectiveness of early intervention for actue low-back pain patientsL a one-year prospective study. Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, Volume 13 (Issue 1), pp. 1-9.
3. Wand B., Bird C., McAuley J., Doré C., MacDowell M., De Souza L. (2004) Early intervention for the management of acute low back pain: a single-blind randomized controlled trial of biopsychosocial education, manual therapy, and exercise. Spine, Volume 29 (Issue 21), pp. 2350-2350.

Elizabeth D'Annunzio Shah Physical Therapist New York CityElizabeth D’Annunzio Shah, PT, DPT, OCS, MCT works with patients of all ages and abilities including recreational athletes, professional dancers and performing artists. She has a special interest in vestibular and balance disorders, movement theory and creative solutions for both neurologically and musculoskeletally impaired persons. Elizabeth is passionate about exercise as a means to maintain health, manage stress and enjoy life! She practices yoga in the Iyengar tradition, is an avid surfer, and participates in distance running events whenever possible. (read more)