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Back pain: why you should see a physical therapist first

Low back pain is extremely common and, in most cases, mild. At any given time, approximately 25% of people in the U.S. report having experienced low back pain within the past 3 months. For some people, back pain is recurrent or becomes chronic which eventually leads to a decreased quality of life.

Low back pain varies and may be experienced as dully, achy, burning, or sharp. It can be very localized or generalized over a larger area. You can sometimes experience muscle spasms or stiffness which may be worse at different points of the day. Many people also experience symptoms into one or both legs.

**IF your low back pain is accompanied by loss of bowel or bladder control or numbness in the groin or inner thigh, you need to visit your local emergency department immediately**

How does a physical therapist diagnose your back pain?

How can physical therapy help?

A physical therapist will take you through a very thorough evaluation which includes a review of your health history and specific questions in regards to your symptoms, an examination to assess functional movement patterns, quality of movement, strength, range of motion, etc. and assessment of how you use your body at work, home, or during your certain recreational or leisure activities.

For the majority of cases of low back pain, imaging such as an x-ray or MRI is unnecessary as the first line of care. If your physical therapist suspects your low back pain might be caused by another serious health condition, they will refer you to the proper health provider for further assessment and evaluation.

A recently published study compared patients who received an MRI first versus physical therapy first for low back pain and those that received an MRI first spent on average $4793 more!

Your physical therapist will help determine the appropriate treatment plan for you based on examination findings as most treatment needs to be individualized to the person for low back pain!

Some treatments may include:

  • Manual therapy (soft tissue mobilization, myofascial release, manipulation, cupping)

  • Specific strengthening and flexibility exercises

  • Specific exercises based on finding a direction of preference (i.e. McKenzie exercises)

  • Education on how to take proper care of your back

  • Training for proper lifting, sitting, sleeping, and standing

  • Assistance in developing a safe exercise program individualized to you

Why A Physical Therapist First?

A recent study published in 2018 compared differences in opioid prescription, health care utilization, and costs among low back pain patients who saw a physical therapist at the first point of care, any time during the episode, or not at all. The main finding was that patients who saw a PT first had lower probability of having an opioid prescription, any advanced imaging services, and an Emergency Department visit. These patients also had lower out-of-pocket costs, thus there was lower utilization of high-cost medical services and lower use of opioids!

Do you suffer with back pain or leg pain when you stand or walk?

Do you have pain when you sit for long periods or drive?

Does your back ever “go out” if you move the wrong way?

Are you afraid your pain will get worse if you don’t do anything about it?

Do you experience pain, numbness, or tingling into your butt, groin, or down your leg?

**If you answered YES to any of the above questions → You need to see a physical therapist to help you with your symptoms!**

Call or Email to Schedule Today or Set Up a FREE, 15-minute phone discovery consultation to ask questions and determine the proper plan for you : )

Phone: 614-437-9002



  1. Frogner BK, Harwood K, Andrilla CHA, Schwartz M, Pines JM. Physical therapy as the first point of care to treat low back pain: An instrumental variables approach to estimate impact on opioid prescription, health care utilization, and costs. Health Serv Res. 2018; 53(6): 4629-4646.

2. Physical Therapist’s Guide to Low Back Pain. American Physical Therapy Association Website. June 2, 2015. Accessed: December 26, 2018.

#columbusphysicaltherapist #backpain


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