When is the Right Time To Go To Physical Therapy?

Since pain and injury may look different for everyone, many people ask us if there’s a “right time” to start coming to physical therapy. Our answer: Yes, there’s a right time – it’s when you notice pain or sustain an injury. Oftentimes, patients try to “wait it out” and their pain, injury, or condition starts to make the decisions in their life.

The Workers Compensation Research Institute released a report in September 2020 from a recent study, which determined that early physical therapy for lower back pain improves outcomes and saves money for patients.


In this study, authors split the participants into 5 groups based on the timing they would receive physical therapy services for their worker’s compensation claims of 7+ days: within 3 days, between 4-7 days, between 8-14 days, between 15-30 days, or after 30 days. For the purpose of this study, the authors defined “early” as 3-14 days after the onset of symptoms.


Cost Savings of Early Care

When patients received physical therapy after 30 days from the date of injury, their payment per claim was 24-28% higher than those who received physical therapy within 14 days of the injury. Additionally, these same patients were 47% more likely to have an MRI, 46% more likely to be prescribed opioids, 29% more likely to receive injections for pain management, and 89% more likely to have back surgery. Each of these medical procedures carries a significant cost to the patient at a time when they are struggling the most.


The Impact of Access to Care in Recovery Time

The authors note that “the findings of our study support the value of ordering PT early rather than late” and “clinicians and payors should be encouraged to work proactively to remove barriers” to early treatment. The study found that those who began their treatment more than 30 days after their injury claimed 58-69% more disability time than those who received treatment within one week of an injury. The findings of this study provide more support for the goal of early access to care for our patients, in this case for employees injured at the workplace.


PPT’s Dedication to Patients

Performance Physical Therapy’s Clinical Officer, Dr. Dave Pavao, PT, DPT, OCS says “Our physical therapists will continue to work together with providers and insurance companies to advocate for breaking down barriers to patients’ access to early PT care, both in the clinic and through the convenience of telehealth. Every injured worker deserves to have early access to the right provider at the right time to limit their pain and get them back to work as soon as possible”


If you’ve been suffering from low back pain, don’t wait any longer to make an appointment with a physical therapist. Contact Performance Physical Therapy at 401.726.7100 for your free 15-minute evaluation with a physical therapist. Visit one of our 13 locations serving Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts or schedule a telehealth appointment.

Reference: https://www.apta.org/news/2020/09/21/workers-comp-lbp-report

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