Back pain is an epidemic. In fact, next to the common cold, low back pain is the most common reason that patients visit their physician. Billions of dollars are spent annually on the treatment of this epidemic, but are we treating it effectively? As an informed consumer, for you, what are the best options for your care?

A study of more than 32,000 patients suffering from low back pain revealed that patients who receive physical therapy intervention within 14 days after onset of symptoms experience better outcomes, fewer follow-up treatments and a cost savings of around $2,700 (Spine 2012).

And, yet, not all physical therapy treatments have been shown to have the same outcomes. Evidence now clearly demonstrates that an effective physical therapy treatment plan is one that appropriately subgroups your low back pain. Fortunately, a select group of physical therapists practicing Mechanical Diagnoses and Treatment (MDT) are experts in this.

MDT practitioners utilize a systematic evaluation technique that uses movement testing to determine exactly which direction, with what force and frequency your spine should be treated.

In a recent study, MDT practitioners evaluated and then placed their patients into three groups. Group one was matched with their directional preference as determined by the MDT therapist. Group two was treated in the direction opposite of their preference, and group three was given “evidencedbased” instructions to resume as many normal activities as possible. Of the 230 patients in the study, 30 percent of the participants in groups two and three withdrew because of failure to improve or worsened symptoms. None of the participants in group one withdrew. In fact, more than 90 percent of the participants in group one rated themselves as better or resolved at two weeks compared with only 20 percent in group two and 40 percent in group three.

Back pain can be effectively managed. It is important to actively seek early intervention and stay informed on how to best care for your condition. Talk to your physician about physical therapy and make sure that you are referred to a practitioner who can accurately match your condition with the appropriate
therapeutic activities.