Physical therapy is effective for management of low-back pain

Feb 25, 2009

A new review article published in the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons should help convince many patients with low back pain to consider physical therapy as a first line of treatment for their condition, according to the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA). The review, published in February 2009, recommends that in most cases of symptomatic lumbar degenerative disc disease, a common cause of low back pain (LBP), the most effective treatment is physical therapy combined with anti-inflammatory medications. Approximately 75 to 85 percent of adults will be affected by low back pain during their lifetimes.1

Symptomatic lumbar degenerative disc disease develops when a disc weakens (often due to repetitive strain), is injured, or deteriorates from aging. As a result, the disc is unable to hold the vertebrae as it should and the lack of stability can cause back pain.

The review details the different treatment methods for symptomatic lumbar degenerative disc disease, including physical therapy with the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and concludes that, in most patients with low back pain, symptoms resolve without surgical intervention. The review also concludes that physical therapy and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are the "cornerstones" of non-surgical treatment.

Physical therapist intervention includes strengthening of core muscle groups, including the abdominal wall and lumbar musculature, which can have positive effects in patients with this condition. According to APTA spokesperson Julie Fritz, PT, PhD, ATC, clinical outcomes research scientist at Salt Lake City's Intermountain Healthcare and associate professor at the University of Utah, physical therapists have several treatment options that can help patients with LBP whether due to degenerative disc disease or a variety of other causes.

Exercise and manual therapy including spinal manipulation, have been shown to benefit many patients.2, 3. In addition, patient education to remain active and use appropriate body mechanics is beneficial. Physical therapists are trained to identify which of these treatment strategies will be most effective for an individual patient, which further improves the effectiveness of care.

In previous systematic reviews of the literature, it was found that exercise has been shown to improve function and decrease pain in adult patients with chronic LBP and that physical therapy was beneficial for the treatment of acute LBP.2, 3 In another systematic review, NSAIDs were found to provide LBP patients with short-term symptomatic relief.4

"Receiving care from a licensed physical therapist can further improve the odds that a patient can maintain their quality of life and avoid surgery," said Fritz. In addition to building the core muscle groups, hands-on therapy to mobilize the spine has been shown to be particularly effective. 5, 6 "Spinal manipulation can be an important component of physical therapist treatment for low back pain. Supplementing exercise with spinal manipulation is also beneficial for many patients."

Physical therapists can help patients develop a safe and effective exercise program that is tailored to an individual's specific needs and goals. "Surgery should be the last option, but too often patients think of surgery as a cure all and are eager to embark on it," said Luke Madigan, MD, an attending physician at Knoxville Orthopaedic Clinic, Knoxville, TN, and the lead author of the literature review.

References:

1. Andersson GB: Epidemiological features of chronic low back pain. Lancet 1999; 354:581-585.

2. Hayden JA, van Tulder MW, Malmivaara A, Koes BW: Exercise therapy for the treatment of non-specific low back pain. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2005;(3):CD000335.

3. Assendelft WJ, Morton SC, Yu EI, Suttorp MJ, Shekelle PG: Spinal manipulative therapy for low back pain. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2004;(1):CD000447.

4. vanTulder MW, Scholten RJ, Koes BW, Deyo RA: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for low back pain: a systematic review within the framework of the Cochrane collaboration back review group Cochrane review. Spine 2000:25:2501-2513.

5. Childs JD, Fritz JM, Flynn TW, Irrgang JJ, Johnson KK, Maikowski GR, Delitto A: A clinical prediction rule to identify patients with low back pain most likely to benefit from spinal manipulation: a validation study. Ann Intern Med. 2004; 141(12):920-928.

6. Chou R, Huffman LH: Nonpharmacologic therapies for acute and chronic low back pain: a review of the evidence for an American Pain Society/American College of Physicians clinical practice guideline.; American Pain Society; American College of Physicians; Ann Intern Med. 2007; 147(7):492-504.

Source: American Physical Therapy Association

Explore further: AMA examines economic impact of physicians

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Japan to field test rehabilitation robots

Feb 12, 2013

(Phys.org)—Ten hospitals in Japan are set to begin testing the use of a robot known as "Robot Suit HAL" starting next month. The purpose of the test will be to determine whether use of the robot is beneficial ...

The cyborgs era has started

Jan 10, 2014

Medical implants, complex interfaces between brain and machine or remotely controlled insects: Recent developments combining machines and organisms have great potentials, but also give rise to major ethical ...

Recommended for you

AMA examines economic impact of physicians

2 hours ago

(HealthDay)—Physicians who mainly engage in patient care contribute a total of $1.6 trillion in economic output, according to the American Medical Association (AMA)'s Economic Impact Study.

Less-schooled whites lose longevity, study finds

2 hours ago

Barbara Gentry slowly shifts her heavy frame out of a chair and uses a walker to move the dozen feet to a chair not far from the pool table at the Buford Senior Center. Her hair is white and a cough sometimes interrupts her ...

How to keep your fitness goals on track

2 hours ago

(HealthDay)—The New Year's resolutions many made to get fit have stalled by now. And one expert thinks that's because many people set their goals too high.

Suddenly health insurance is not for sale

Apr 18, 2014

(HealthDay)— Darlene Tucker, an independent insurance broker in Scotts Hill, Tenn., says health insurers in her area aren't selling policies year-round anymore.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Less-schooled whites lose longevity, study finds

Barbara Gentry slowly shifts her heavy frame out of a chair and uses a walker to move the dozen feet to a chair not far from the pool table at the Buford Senior Center. Her hair is white and a cough sometimes interrupts her ...

How to keep your fitness goals on track

(HealthDay)—The New Year's resolutions many made to get fit have stalled by now. And one expert thinks that's because many people set their goals too high.

Low tolerance for pain? The reason may be in your genes

Researchers may have identified key genes linked to why some people have a higher tolerance for pain than others, according to a study released today that will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 66th Annual ...

Growing app industry has developers racing to keep up

Smartphone application developers say they are challenged by the glut of apps as well as the need to update their software to keep up with evolving phone technology, making creative pricing strategies essential to finding ...

Making graphene in your kitchen

Graphene has been touted as a wonder material—the world's thinnest substance, but super-strong. Now scientists say it is so easy to make you could produce some in your kitchen.