Why Aren’t You Getting “Better, Faster, More Affordable” Pain Treatment?

Alison Evert, Clinic Manager APT

We recently posted an article from Seattle Business, “Better, Faster, More Affordable” on our Facebook page. We wanted to talk a little more about its relevance and discuss the findings. The article focuses on the collaboration between doctors and a company with the goal of bringing the most benefit to employees experiencing back pain. Upon looking into these cases of back pain, it was discovered “..that 85 percent of patients with uncomplicated back pain required treatment quite different from those afflicted with serious spine pathology.” They go on to discuss how most (90%) of the treatments and scans they were doing did nothing to help remedy back pain. In fact, Dr. Mecklenburg noted that “…the only thing the evidence showed [that] was worth anything was physical therapy.” With health insurance companies offering more and more high deductible insurance plans, patients can be on the hook for the first five or six thousand dollars spent on medical care during a year. Medical imaging like MRI and CT scans alone can run anywhere from $500 to over $3000. So if it’s not actually benefiting your recovery, why are you spending money on it?  This is precisely the thinking  Annette King, benefits manager for Starbucks, had when posing this question, ‘ “If the only thing giving value is physical therapy, then why don’t we start with that?” ‘.

“If the only thing giving value is physical therapy, then why don’t we start with that?” – Annette King

Why don’t we start with the most cost-effective and proven method for treating not just back pain, but a wide variety of injuries? Doesn’t it make sense to start conservatively and pursue more invasive and expensive methods of treatment only if the pain or injury persists? When you’re sick, you start out with some chicken soup, water, and rest; only going to the doctor if your symptoms persist. So why do people tend to work in the opposite direction when experiencing injury or pain? As discussed previously in our post on understanding pain, pain is a highly complex process with biological and psychological factors. When we are in pain, it can have an immense affect on our daily lives. For many, the desperation to be rid of it causes us to look for the quickest solution, even though it may not actually be that effective or quick. Additionally, thanks to ingenious marketing over the years, we have come to associate high cost with high worth, but this isn’t always true. Imaging, injections, or surgery may be needed in some cases, but these cases make up the minority of back pain issues. Despite their high cost, they might not be that helpful, efficient, effective, or necessary for successful treatment in most cases. In our latest PT Fix video, Best Way to Treat Back Pain, Dr. Evert explained how patients can save a significant amount of money by getting physical therapy first. Additionally, beginning physical therapy within 14 days of the onset of symptoms greatly improves the recovery timeline. Because all 50 states have direct access for physical therapy, patients can see a physical therapist directly without having to get a doctor referral first. (Some insurance providers may require a referral, which may be requested after your physical therapy evaluation.) This gives patients the power to control their own treatment. So the next time you or someone you care about is suffering from back or neck pain, rather than diving pocket first into the most expensive imaging and treatments that are usually unnecessary, ask yourself, “Am I really getting a better, faster, more affordable treatment?”.

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