Starting physical therapy early after a patient is diagnosed with pain can help to reduce both the amount and duration of time that the person is on painkillers.
That’s according to a new analysis of nearly 90,000 private insurance claims, published in this month’s JAMA Network Open. Researchers with Stanford and Duke noted that, when PT was launched within three months of diagnosis, patients suffering from shoulder, neck, lower back or knee pain were as much as 16% less likely to use opioids in subsequent months.
“This isn’t a world where there are magic bullets,” said Eric Sun, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of anesthesiology, perioperative and pain medicine at Stanford and lead author of the study. “But many guidelines suggest that physical therapy is an important component of pain management, and there is little downside to trying it.”
Taking part within at least one PT session within 90 days of diagnosis was also associated with an up to 10% reduction in how many pain pills patients consumed. Researchers reached their conclusions by analyzing both insurance claims and prescription data from non-elderly patients who made outpatient and emergency room visits between 2007 and 2015.