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Early physical therapy for low back pain associated with less subsequent health care utilization
Date:12/6/2010

The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) is pointing to a new study on low back pain in Medicare patients in its efforts to encourage the newly established Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation to promptly launch a demonstration project on direct access to physical therapist services that was recommended in the recent health reform law. The study, published in the journal Spine, showed Medicare patients who received physical therapy in the acute phase following an episode of low back pain were less likely to receive epidural steroid injections, lumbar surgery, or frequent physician office visits in the year following their initial physician visit as compared with patients who received physical therapist treatment later.

"This study has demonstrated a decreased usage of medical services in patients who receive physical therapy early after an acute low back pain episode," remarked APTA President R. Scott Ward, PT, PhD. "Therefore, we encourage the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation to swiftly undertake the direct access for physical therapy demonstration project recommended by the health care reform law. The results of this project could significantly change the way physical therapy services are delivered to our nation's seniorsputting them on a path to recovery sooner and decreasing future costs."

Researchers examined a nationally representative, 20% sample of physician outpatient billing claims from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The 431,195 enrollees were categorized into acute (having received physical therapy in less than 4 weeks after an episode); sub-acute (having received physical therapy between 4 weeks and 3 months after an episode), and chronic (receiving physical therapy between 3 and 12 months after an episode) treatment groups. There was also a category of patients who did not receive physical therapist treatment.

Researchers also found that patients who were initially ev
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Contact: Jennifer Rondon
jenniferrondon@apta.org
703-706-3216
American Physical Therapy Association
Source:Eurekalert

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