Study examines impact of early physical therapy for lower-back pain

“This is an example of the media not saying what the study demonstrated. Fortunately, they linked to the original publication in JAMA, October 13, 2015. There you find that PT was not so good, but a little good.” Bill Chesnut, MD

Study examines impact of early physical therapy for lower-back pain

The NPR (10/14, Shallcross) “Shots” blog reports that a study published Oct. 13 in the Journal of the American Medical Association examines “the impact of early physical therapy” for lower-back pain. Researchers “looked at more than 200 patients with lower-back pain to see whether physical therapy sessions would make a difference if they started the sessions soon after they began having pain” instead of waiting a few weeks to see if people could recover on their own.

HealthDay (10/14, Reinberg) points out that “early physical therapy produced a modest improvement in the study participants’ ability to function after three months, compared with no physical therapy” at all. At the one-year mark, however, “no significant difference in function was found between the two groups.”


If you read the entire abstract, the conclusions are different than the media reported.

Conclusions and Relevance. Among adults with recent-onset LBP, early physical therapy resulted in statistically significant improvement in disability, but the improvement was modest and did not achieve the minimum clinically important difference compared with usual care.

Trial Registration Identifier: NCT01726803