University of Utah researchers compared a group of back pain patients seeking pain relief. One group was treated with early physical therapy, while the other group received no physical therapy. The researchers say their study subjects reported only modest improvement in ability to function at 3 months post back injury compared to a group that received no physical therapy.

According to a report from MedlinePlus, the study of 200 individuals affected by recent-onset low back pain was led by Julie Fritz, PhD, professor of physical therapy at the university. Back manipulation and exercise were reported as components of the physical therapy.

Furthermore, the report notes, after 1 year no significant difference in function was found between the group treated with physical therapy and the group that received no physical therapy.

Fritz states in the MedlinePlus report that individuals affected by lower back pain tend to improve quickly. She adds, however, that the physical therapy helped the study subjects find pain relief more quickly than the study subjects who received no physical therapy.

“But the difference between the improvement that comes with time and the improvement that comes with therapy is not a huge difference,” Fritz concedes, in the MedlinePlus report.

Despite the pain, staying active and exercising appears to be a good approach to treating low back pain. “The goal is to keep people moving to help them recover, and that often happens without assistance,” Fritz states.

The study appears in the October 13 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

[Source: MedlinePlus]