A study released recently in JAMA Internal Medicine raised concerns about overly aggressive treatments being prescribed to patients with back pain.

The use of narcotic drugs referrals to specialty physicians and diagnostic tests have been on the rise since 1999 in the treatment of back pain – one of the most common reasons Americans visit the doctor.

On the contrary, the use of more conservative treatments recommended in national guidelines from the American College of Physicians, which includes the use of physical therapy, remained the same or decreased.

The study highlights the need for the use of conservative treatments with back pain patients, and that in the majority of cases, these treatments are successful.

“Physical therapy management of back pain offers a treatment that medicine alone doesn’t compare to,” says Dave Griffiths, physical therapist at ATI Physical Therapy.  “As physical therapists, we have the luxury of helping patients eliminate pain, and the ability to teach them how to avoid future pain without the use of drugs, injections, or other surgical procedures.  Our biggest challenge is that we live in a quick fix society and we all want the easy answer. Popping a pill takes no time, but unfortunately it does not address the reason back pain started.”

Griffith also stresses the need to not only focus on the back pain, but on the patient’s entire body with a comprehensive treatment plan. “After an evaluation to help determine the underlying cause of the pain, therapy can include strengthening of the abdominal and low back musculature, flexibility exercises, manual techniques, movement training, modality treatment, or most likely, a combination of all of these.  At ATI, we have found great success with our comprehensive care model.  We focus on treating the entire body and educating the patient on what they need to do or avoid.”

If you are experiencing back pain, and want to know how physical therapy may help, visit any ATI Physical Therapy Location for a Complimentary Injury Screening.  ATI can evaluate your injury and provide you with options for continued care. You'll be seen by a licensed provider who will provide appropriate recommendations.