Have you ever been to the doctor for back pain and been told to simply wait it out? Well, there’s a reason for that. The general medical assumption has traditionally been that most low back pain dissipates naturally within three or four weeks as part of an ebb-and-flow cycle.
While this may be true in a few cases, the mounting costs of low back pain–which is now the leading cause of disability in the U.S.–have led researchers to search for more effective methods of care.
For most patients, early intervention with physical therapy can help reduce the need for expensive MRIs and injections down the road. But how can we be sure a patient will benefit from early intervention?
That’s where our research comes in.
My colleagues at the Institute for Athletic Medicine and I were interested in finding a way to predict how well patients will respond to certain types of treatments. How? By examining not only their physical symptoms, but their mental and emotional states as well.
Using something called a StartBack Tool, we began asking questions to identify how much a patient worries, how hopeless they feel and how much their pain has affected their quality of life, in addition to their level of pain.
Recent data has shown that all patients benefit from early intervention of physical therapy. This is especially important for patients who have a high degree of worry about their condition, are scared to move or have a poor coping strategy, as these patients tend to have worse physical outcomes over time.
Why do your physical and emotional states affect your ability to cope with and recover from back pain? We don’t have an exact answer, though some theorize that if you're afraid to move your body won’t be able to heal properly. Others believe your muscles and bones can be negatively affected by stress, just like other parts of the body.
Getting these patients on a physical therapy treatment plan immediately rather than waiting it out helps them develop coping mechanisms, take proactive measures to reduce their pain, and feel empowered on their path to recovery.
If you're suffering from back pain, call the Institute for Athletic Medicine at 612-672-7100 or make an appointment online.