Customized physical therapy may be a useful way to ease low back pain, which affects an estimated 31 million Americans, a new study says.
Researchers from La Trobe University observed that “many patients with low-back disorders persisting beyond 6 weeks do not recover.”
So, they investigated whether individualized physiotherapy plus guideline-based advice would result in better outcomes compared to advice alone.
The study followed 300 people with low back pain. Each were offered two “advice sessions” that were intended to explain their back pain issues and to offer recommendations on specific lifting techniques that would lessen their low-back pain. Approximately half of the group was also offered ten sessions of individualized physiotherapy.
The researchers from La Trobe University in Bundoora, Australia, published their findings in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, in which they concluded:
“Ten sessions of individualized physiotherapy was more effective than 2 sessions of advice alone in participants with low-back disorders of ≥6 weeks and ≤6 months duration. Between-group changes were sustained at 12 months for activity limitation and 6 months for back and leg pain and were likely to be clinically significant.”
“Back pain is very common and many patients are advised to attend physical therapy at some point,” lead study author Jon Ford of La Trobe University said in an email to Reuters Health. “The challenge for researchers is to continue to examine which particular physical therapy interventions work for specific types of patients with low-back pain and determine the optimal timing for physical therapy intervention,” he continued.
According to the American Chiropractic Association,
- Low back pain is the single leading cause of disability worldwide, according to the Global Burden of Disease 2010.
- One-half of all working Americans admit to having back pain symptoms each year.
- Back pain is one of the most common reasons for missed work. In fact, back pain is the second most common reason for visits to the doctor’s office, outnumbered only by upper-respiratory infections.
- Most cases of back pain are mechanical or non-organic—meaning they are not caused by serious conditions, such as inflammatory arthritis, infection, fracture or cancer.
- Americans spend at least $50 billion each year on back pain—and that’s just for the more easily identified costs.
- Experts estimate that as many as 80% of the population will experience a back problem at some time in our lives.