Node Smith, ND
Many people experience back pain. A recent study found that these individuals may be served better by seeking immediate physical therapy assistance, rather than other healthcare professionals.1 The study did not specifically address individuals seeking out chiropractic care or other holistic bodywork that may use similar therapeutic tools as physical therapists (PTs).
Study looked at over 150,000 insurance claims and here’s what they found
The study found that patients who initiated medical care for low-back pain by seeing a PT had 89 percent less chance of being given an opioid prescription, 28 percent less chance of being referred for advanced imaging studies, and a 15 percent lower chance of an emergency room visit. There was a 19 percent higher rate of hospitalization. The authors note that the reason why hospitalization may be higher is potentially due to appropriate hospitalization for specialized care after musculoskeletal causes have been ruled out.
Patients seeking out PT care first also were seen to incur less out-of-pocket health expenses
The lead author, Dr. Bianca Frogner said this of the study, “Given our findings in light of the national opioid crisis, state policymakers, insurers, and providers may want to review current policies and reduce barriers to early and frequent access to physical therapists as well as to educate patients about the potential benefits of seeing a physical therapist first.”
It is estimated that roughly 80 percent of adults have back pain during their lifetime
The current treatment of low-back pain is painkillers, x-rays and rest. A PT, according to the article – but many other alternative practitioners – utilize more evidence-based approaches of using stretches and exercises as first level treatments. To this list, perhaps mindfulness and other stress relieving tools could be added, which naturopathic physicians are well versed in employing.
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Node Smith, ND, is a naturopathic physician in Portland, OR and associate editor for NDNR. He has been instrumental in maintaining a firm connection to the philosophy and heritage of naturopathic medicine among the next generation of docs. He helped found the first multi-generational experiential retreat, which brings elders, alumni, and students together for a weekend camp-out where naturopathic medicine and medical philosophy are experienced in nature. Four years ago he helped found the non-profit, Association for Naturopathic ReVitalization (ANR), for which he serves as the board chairman. ANR has a mission to inspire health practitioners to embody the naturopathic principles through experiential education. Node also has a firm belief that the next era of naturopathic medicine will see a resurgence of in-patient facilities which use fasting, earthing, hydrotherapy and homeopathy to bring people back from chronic diseases of modern living; he is involved in numerous conversations and projects to bring about this vision.