Our Edison rehabilitation experts highlight the importance of early physical therapy as shown in recent study

Each month, our Edison rehabilitation experts strive to keep you in the know on some of the most important recent developments in the physical therapy research world. By explaining the findings of newly published studies, we hope to show our patients that you always have options when it comes to treating your injury or painful condition. But based on the research that continues to come out, we firmly believe that physical therapy is the nearly always the best available option.

This month, we’d like to delve into a study that was published in July that investigated patients with neck pain who saw a physical therapist early rather than waiting.

The reason this study was conducted in the first place was to look into possible changes that can be made to the healthcare system to improve the treatments patients receive and reduce overall costs. As it stands, most healthcare in the U.S. is delivered in what’s called a fee-for-service model. This means that doctors will receive payment regardless of the outcomes patients experience, which means they have an incentive to treat as many patients as possible. It’s also one of the many reasons that healthcare costs continue to increase at alarming rates.

One possible way to move away from this type of approach is to identify strategies that are a great value to patients. This means that treatments are effective, as well as efficient for their cost to the patient, the doctor and the insurance company.

Why early physical therapy can provide a great value

Early physical therapy—which means seeing a therapist within about four weeks—is considered to be a great value that leads to positive outcomes at a low cost for patients with lower back pain, and it is therefore recommended over other treatments. Neck pain is the second most common painful disorder behind lower back pain, but the role of early physical therapy to treat it has not been well studied. Therefore, a study was conducted to compare early and delayed physical therapy for neck pain.

Researchers used a database to compare the outcomes of 1,531 patients with neck pain, 451 of which received early physical therapy (within four weeks) and 1,080 who received delayed physical therapy (more than four weeks). They found that patients who received early physical therapy experienced better outcomes with less disability and pain than those who waited for treatment. When the cost was analyzed, these same patients were found to get more out of each dollar they spent than the patients that delayed physical therapy. Finally, the efficiency of early treatment was also higher, as patients experienced greater improvements per each session than in those when they waited.

The results of this study clearly show that seeing a physical therapist for neck pain within four weeks leads to much better outcomes than waiting longer to do so. As with any study, more research is needed to confirm these findings, and it’s possible that in the future there will be stronger recommendations for patients with neck pain to see a physical therapist early for effective treatment.

Edison rehabilitation experts can help in the meantime

These changes can take some time to occur, but in the meantime, you can visit our Edison rehabilitation experts for any neck pain, lower back pain, or any other painful conditions you’re dealing with. It’s always better to see us sooner rather than later, but we can treat most conditions no matter how long you’ve been dealing with it. Contact Arrow Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation at 732-494-0895 or click here to schedule an appointment at any of our four clinics in Union, Woodbridge, Edison or Somerville NJ.

To read the abstract (summary) of the study on early physical therapy for neck pain, click here.