Researchers looked deeply into how physical therapy works, and their conclusions were not what most might expect.
A new study has found that early physical therapy has an effect on back pain you might not expect: not much of one at all.
In fact, discomfort typically subsides on its own without therapy, which provides only modest benefits, according to a HealthDay News report.
The study, which examined 200 people who had low back pain, assigned each patient randomly to physical therapy or no treatment within the first month since pain began.
After a year, the results were bad news for back pain sufferers: there just wasn’t much difference, no matter how long after the treatment researchers measured.
Lead researcher Julie Fritz of the University of Utah said while people with therapy did get better a little quicker, “the difference between the improvement that comes with time and the improvement that comes with therapy is not a huge difference,” she said according to the report.
If you want to get rid of back pain, your best bet is to be active and exercise — even if it means you have to work through the pain.
About 70 percent of people get low back pain during their life time, and it accounts for up to 5 percent of all visits to the doctor.
The reality is that physical therapy can’t change long-term outcomes, and it’s not a solution for underlying issues that can only be fixed with proper exercise.
The findings don’t mean you should abandon physical therapy altogether. If someone is beginning to exercise, physical therapy may accelerate the process somewhat and make the whole experience a bit easier. It just won’t fix a chronic issue.
Chronic back pain is often a symptom of a sedentary lifestyle. Like poor diet choices, poor lifestyle choices can result in deep underlying problems — in this case, back pain — that can only be fixed by addressing those underlying problems — that is, exercising more and living a more active lifestyle.
The findings were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.